Positively Positive

Wow, last week was just jam-packed with positivity and good news.

No, really it was. OK, well not jam-packed, but it had some good stuff in it…OK in the grand scheme of the usual shit show of recent weeks and months, it wasn’t as bad as all the others. Look, a couple of things went well….let’s leave it at that.

Early in the week my Mum & Dad were invited for their vaccines. They went yesterday and that’s another weight off my mind. That weight has of course transferred to my stomach.

Then on Thursday, Louise had her first jab too. So a good number of our immediate family are (almost) protected and that’s got to be a good thing. Nobody has grown a second head or lost a limb, so all in all, I’d say getting the vaccine is a good thing to do. As someone who has made the odd negative comment on the government’s handling of this pandemic, I am obliged to say that the rollout seems to be going well. All that can stop it now are the “Bill Gates” fearing crowd refusing the vaccine for non-sane reasons.

I think that will be it for vaccines in our family for a while. The rest of us are some way down the priority list. I’ll be next, based on my advancing years, but I suspect that won’t be until the summer at the earliest. The kids are well down the pecking order but I read yesterday that every adult should have been offered their first jab by September.

It is of some comfort and reassurance that each week hundreds of thousands of folks are getting vaccinated now in the UK. With the arrival of a sane leader in the US next week and his promise to do 100 million in 100 days then, and I hate to say this out loud, but could international travel be on the distant horizon?

I have to say I still think our mid-June plan is a flip of a coin. If it does go ahead then it was pretty much confirmed this week, that as I thought, you will need to have a negative test within 72 hours of departure to be allowed to fly. Or I suppose you could show proof of vaccination, but, other than a flimsy bit of card, I’m not seeing any tangible, electronic record of that which could be produced.

Of course, if you test negative three days before you fly, then you could still be positive by the time you board the plane. Everyone needs to be responsible and observe all the common-sense rules between taking such a test and flying. You could make an argument that everyone should take one of those rapid test things at the airport but for folks like us can you imagine investing all the money, time and emotion into a trip to WDW and then rocking up to the airport still not certain you are going to be able to travel?

If this remains in place and we do somehow get to go in June, we’ll be getting tests right on the 72-hour window. You know by now, I am a “need to know” certainty craving idiot.

Each year, I am taken by surprise by spring. I am not good with winter. Then each year, there tends to be a watershed weekend, where the weather suddenly changes and the world just seems a much better place all of a sudden. I am crossing everything that this spring/early summer will be the mother of all that and we will emerge not only from the shitty weather and being cold at all times, to the sunlit uplands of spring, an easing of restrictions and the opening of borders. I am not naïve enough to think everything will go back to how it was, but I am hoping very hard for a step-change in all this as we round the bend out of winter.

To continue this abundance of positivity and joy, Rebecca and Tom get the keys to their new house on Friday. They are overjoyed to be getting onto the ladder and having somewhere of their own. They won’t move in immediately as there is some work to be done first, but they can at least get their furniture in, get the work underway and look forward to getting settled in very shortly.

We have had no such news just yet but we have to be close, right? My prediction of us moving on the same day as Rebecca and Tom now seems very unlikely, which is probably a good thing as we have a shit ton of packing still to do, but I suppose whenever we have to be ready, we will be.

So after such a gloriously positive(ish) week, for the first time in a long, long time I have some belief at least that our June trip might happen. Much will depend on the US of course. It is a country of contradictions, with Florida more or less fully open and the Senator hiding the stats and arresting folks who want to publish them compared to California, with Disneyland never having opened since the first lockdown. The latest rumours/thinking about travel to the US seem to be centred around May. That is, of course, cutting it very fine for us and in the back of my mind, I am already thinking about a “what if” plan for new dates should they be required.

All in all though, with a vaccine rolled out to as many that will have it, as we get into the second half of 2021, we have to be able to think about being able to book a holiday and actually going on it. Imagine that. I am very much imagining it and as all good planners do, my tentative plans for the trip after next is already on the back burner in my overtaxed tiny mind.

OK, that’s my limit for positivity. I need a lie down to recover.

Till the next time…….

If The Stress Doesn’t Give Me A Heart Attack, This Doughnut Will.

For those with the ability to remember all the way back to last Sunday and the much smaller subset of folks who care enough about the moan-fest that was last week’s blog, I should give an update. Mary, Louise’s Mum did get her second vaccine jab on Tuesday. That’s good news of course and hopefully by around now her body is much better equipped to keep her safe from the virus.

In less better news I am still no wiser as to what the actual policy is for vaccinations. Are folks going to get the second one three weeks later or is it twelve? I have no qualifications to dispute either approach but whatever has been decided for heaven’s sake communicate it clearly. My Dad had his letter about his vaccine late in the week so it would be nice for him to know what to expect. But, let’s focus on the positive, that folks are getting some protection at least. Looking at the figures, we desperately need it.

In a world ravaged by a pandemic and where one of the globe’s superpowers repelled a coup attempt last week, you might think that the trivial matters troubling me may have been put into some sort of perspective. You might think that if you have never read this blog before, but of course you’d be wrong. I am troubled by world events. However, my own little world is a busy one and my mind is a whirling mess of all the stuff that is going on.

The putting of our house into boxes has begun. I feel better now a start has been made, but at points during that process, I have stepped back and forlornly looked around at the sheer scale of the task and felt as powerless to affect things as I do with global events. All we can do is plough on and hope that at some point we actually do get to move. After all this time it feels like the day will never come. There has been a little bit of significant progress as we now have the contracts to sign for the sale of our house and we will be doing the signing of those over some form of a video call with the solicitor during the week to come.

There are a million other things to do. They are all little things, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless, they play on my mind. From the sorting of broadband for the new place to telling every company I give money to that we have moved, the more I think about it, the more things I come up with that need doing and it can feel overwhelming. If only I were one of those people that couldn’t eat when stressed. Alas, I am the opposite and if this carries on much longer the removal men may well be carrying me out of the house with the aid of a winch and pully system.

This is where the grown up, buried deep within me tells me it will all be OK, things will get sorted and it will all be worth it in the end. Good pep talk, now back to the stress headaches and lack of sleep.

In other house news, you may remember me mentioning weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were house hunting? Well their purchase is progressing about as quickly as ours. Despite them being first time buyers moving into an empty property, they too are sat waiting for legal folks to collect various bits of paper before they can get in. What is the betting that we get the same moving in date. It’s one of those odd quirks of fate that I can see coming.

So, I could do with a holiday. To be honest, I’d settle for the knowledge that I was going to get one as planned. On that note, I still don’t have my refund from Virgin. After a full week of trying to extract some sense from their automated text system, I think I did get an actual human to respond, who just said they have referred it to a supervisor who will chase the refunds team and they can give no timescales. Well, I don’t know about you but that makes me feel loved and all warm and fuzzy inside. I am desperately trying not to take out my stress and frustration at other stuff out on someone just doing their job.

Let’s end with something not related to a global pandemic, the breakdown of democracy or my own petty little stresses about everyday life, shall we? Remember the old days when I would blog about holiday plans and food. Let’s take a small step back in that direction. This last week or so saw two new places open in Disney Springs. Gideons and Everglazed. The former is a cookie place and the latter, doughnuts. Those two acts in themselves have made the world a slightly better place. I have watched a vlog or two about Gideons and it looks great. The shop is wonderfully themed and the cookies look amazing. I did see that it had to temporarily close again but I am ignoring that for the time being in this hunt for normality.

One thing that really caught my eye was from Everglazed. Long time readers will know of my fascination and love for the Doughnut Burger at Teak, so something about that sweet and savoury mix pleases me greatly and along those lines I saw this…The Grilled Cheeeeeese

A grilled cheese sandwich on a doughnut seems all kinds of right to me. The article reviewing all the menu items, from which I pinched the image above can be read here. There’s nothing like a little bit of food porn to brighten your Sunday.

Let’s quit whilst we are ahead on that slightly positive note and reconvene next Sunday to see if I have had a stress-induced stroke.

Till the next time……

New Year, Snow Change

I’m probably not alone in feeling that 2021 is a little to similar to 2020 so far. After a very different Christmas and New Year, and mostly not for the better due to the current situation, we all slid into 2021 hopeful of better. It will take some time of course and luckily I am extremely patient and laid back so this is no problem.

I am fighting every urge in my ever-expanding body to not piss and moan about the abject and endless incompetence we are suffering on a daily basis from the government. The fact this paragraph exists suggests I have lost that fight. The latest goal post moving on the vaccine, along with the usual hokey cokey approach to policymaking around schools is just another apparent attempt to make this shit show last as long as possible. I know this is hard and unprecedented but we are ten months into this now. At some point, you have to wonder if those making decisions are just incapable of competence.

I know this isn’t the place you come for real-world stuff and political opinion but this is beyond politics now. Ultimately all this affects my ability to holiday and is relevant to the core focus of this blog, but before all that, we have to stop people dying.

Where is the communication? Why is all this vaccine uncertainty being allowed to gather momentum, cause confusion and undermine confidence in the only way out of this mess? Louise’s Mum is due to go back for her second jab on Tuesday. Or is she? At 89, with no internet access, her news sadly comes from the Daily Mail and the news on the telly. She literally has no clue whether she should keep her appointment. She hears that the second jab is perhaps now at 12 weeks but she has had no contact from her GP, who will no doubt be bombarded with incoming calls about this, giving them no chance to make any proactive calls to either reschedule or reassure those due to have their second dose.

Luckily, she has family who can try to find out for her, but what about the thousands of other octogenarians who don’t? This latest act of wilful neglect will cost lives and prolong the pandemic. My frustration is indescribable. Sigh………

Louise has worked for most of the festive period. This, alongside the six-figure salary, is one of the main perks of being a nurse. She has not enjoyed it. If you ever come across some comments online about the pandemic being over-exaggerated and the NHS being quiet and not struggling, please, do not believe it. Every day is a horror show, with staff constantly off ill or self-isolating, leaving those still standing to pick up the pieces and ever-increasing demand. Louise has finally been issued with some PCR rapid testing kits that she has to do twice a week. I’d like to slow hand clap that, as it’s only been the ten months that Louise has been working with COVID positive patients on a regular basis.

I blame my impending return to work for the unexpected ranting today.

House wise, almost everyone involved has had the audacity to take the whole of the festive period off. Imagine doing such a thing. So not a lot has happened. We have not started any of the packing we desperately need to do. It is just too hard and I suspect we will need the looming presence of a deadline to force us into action. Never had I wanted a day to be over more than the one on which we eventually move house. Over the Xmas break, we have had the results of our Home Buyer’s Report back from the surveyor. There are no show stoppers, but there are it appears about a million things that could go wrong and cause us issues at some point in the future. We are assuming this is the standard form of these things with the surveyor covering his arse just in case those aliens do land and sabotage our electrics and roof.

So as the working world wakes up again next week, I’ll be looking to get a decent update from our solicitor about how quickly we can now get this done. It feels like we have been “moving” forever and I just want to get that ominous cloud from over us.

In cheerier news, as is the law, I must report to you that we have had some snow over the last few days and for the first time ever, Freddie has been out playing in it. In his previous short years, he has either been too young or the snow has not been substantial enough. He loved it.

As for my weekly ever-changing moods on any chance of international travel, well, this week it has ebbed to a pretty low point, even for a mid-June departure. As the UK government continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, over in the US the outgoing abomination is determined to leave things as badly broken as possible to show his successor in the worst possible light. Add to that, the Florida governor, who is falsifying death rates and taking what could be politely called a “laid back” approach to vaccine distribution and that is not a recipe for the quick resumption of holidays to the US.

Virgin currently aspire to resume flights to Orlando on the 18th of March, but in a similar way I aspire to wear 30″ waist jeans. Right now, I’d settle for Virgin processing my promised refund from my altered booking that was “guaranteed” to be with me by the end of last year. I am currently in yet another endless wrestle with their infuriating automated text system.

At times I do wonder if I will just endlessly blog about a holiday that I constantly move back and never actually have. It’s a form of planner’s purgatory.

So it’s nice to start the new year in the right frame of mind I find. Happy New Year?

Till the next time…….

Another Damn Plan

When you’ve been writing a weekly blog post since 2009, it can be challenging at times to come up with content. Lord knows you know that. Some weeks I wouldn’t read it, and I wrote it!

However, living through a pandemic that is playing havoc with travel plans is, oddly, a blessing in that department. The same trip has now given me three iterations of the plan that I can share with you. You didn’t care about the first two, but if you think that will stop me sharing the third then I’m not sure I can help you.

I often find that sharing it here helps me to visualise it more clearly than when it is just in my spreadsheet. What? You don’t have a spreadsheet for your holiday? I’m not sure we can be friends.

So here we go, with the third time’s a charm plan for my 50th birthday trip (yes, that is still a thing).

Day One 14th June – Travel

Sigh, how I miss and yearn for that morning at the airport buzz. I’m all new trainers and gassy excitement, happy to pay £30 for an average breakfast and sit in a metal tube for almost nine hours.

We are scheduled to take off at 10.30, so that will mean we will taxi down the runway sometime after 11. We are still flying Virgin (hang in there, we are all counting on you!) and we are in something called Economy Delight on the way out. I do wonder if any aspect of flying Economy can be a “Delight”, but we’ll see I suppose.

We are scheduled to land at 14:30 US time. My original car hire booking with Us Rent A Car had to change as our new dates saw their price double. How I laughed. It was cheaper to cancel that and lose the £50 deposit and go elsewhere, so our Full-Size SUV awaits us.

The big change at this point is that we will head straight to Universal. As we are on a hedonistic 16-day trip (but no so hedonistic that I would pay for anything other than a 14-day WDW ticket), we cannot enter a Disney park for the first couple of days as that would mean the 14 days would be up before we got to the end of the holiday and if we are not in Magic Kingdom weeping on our last day then have we even had a holiday?

So we need to keep our WDW powder dry. We have two nights booked at the Hard Rock Hotel. We will arrive all sweaty and tired, check-in, and head to City Walk for dinner. As an added bonus, we don’t have to unpack as we’ll be moving again in a day or two, so after a quick stock up on waters etc for the room we can go eat. The first restaurant of our trip will be Cowfish. The Cheeseburgerooshi is one of the most pleasant things to enter my mouth. It is delicious and I know I will be having that….and a pudding.

Full and tired we shall retire to bed.

Day Two 15th June – IOA

Hopefully, rising early we shall be at the park for rope drop and make full use of our front of line access. If I go into as much detail for every day as I did for the travel day we’ll be here till next week so let’s keep it brief.

We plan to eat at City Walk again, at Antojitos.

Day Three 16th June – Universal Studios

We will have checked out nice and early, stored the cases somewhere and be off for another day in a Universal theme park. Once we’re done, we will hopefully have dinner at Teak as it is up in that neck of the woods, and then check into our villa, having done a supermarket run to stock up on essentials.

Day Four – 17th June – Magic Kingdom

We might need a rest day ideally here, but how long do you think we can wait to get into a Disney park? Adrenaline and jet lag, with lots of coffee and calories, will get us through I’m sure.

Dinner plans involve an ADR at Ohana should it be open and should we be able to secure one.

Day Five – 18th June

A rest day for heaven’s sake. We shall do some of that at Typhoon Lagoon. A day for some skin crisping and lying down.

Dinner is another step in our relentless calorie quest, tonight at The Cheesecake Factory.

Day Six – 19th June

Epcot at last. How I have missed this place. We will probably focus on Future World, whatever is left of it now, trying to bag the big rides.

Dinner plans are Italian at Via Napoli and who knows, maybe some fireworks.

Day Seven – 20th June

Hollywood Studios, getting frustrated at not being able to ride Rise of the Resistance. Dinner at Bahama Breeze.

Day Eight – 21st June

Amazingly I only have half-formed plans at this stage. I have it as either Magic Kingdom or Volcano Bay. It’ll probably firm up as we get closer or who knows I may leave it fast and loose and we can just decide how we feel the night before. Madness!

Whatever we do, dinner intentions are firm at Homecomin’, should we be able to get an ADR of course.

Day Nine – 22nd June

Animal Kingdom. We will return to Tiffin’s for lunch on one of our AK days as we loved it last time, but I don’t know if that will be this day. Crazy! However, we ALWAYS do Yak & Yeti for dinner.

Day Ten – 23rd June

For my birthday, I was given a night at the Beach Club. It is my favourite resort. We will be staying here today, enjoying the resort and pool(s) as a rest day. We might do a character breakfast at Cape May and there’s a strong chance we will wander into Epcot after dark for some World Showcase action. Dinner plans are Cantina De San Angel.

Day Eleven – 24th June

A proper Epcot day, tidying up any missed rides and getting around World Showcase. Dinner plans are mainly bread at Sanaa.

Day Twelve – 25th June

Back to Hollywood Studios to continue the frustration about not riding Rise of the Resistance. Dinner is off-site today at Olive Garden. Bring me the breadsticks!

Day Thirteen – 26th June

We are off to spend the weekend at the beach. Vero Beach to be precise. It’ll be an early start so that Louise can be prone on the sand by the time the sun rises. Dinner will be at the resort. I think it’s called Wind and Waves.

Day Fourteen – 27th June

More beach, more sunburn and probably a lot more calories. Not sure where we will eat. Hit me up (sorry!) if you have any suggestions for good places close to Vero please.

Day Fifteen – 28th June

Checkout from Vero, Louise will cry all the way back to Orlando and the intention is to go to Animal Kingdom. Dinner is tentatively planned for Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Lake Buena Vista. We had a break of a good few years from eating there but returned last year. It was awesome.

Day Sixteen – 29th June

Our last full day so you know where we will be. Assuming these things are back on, we *may* make Fantasmic over at DHS our farewell show. The MK fireworks, now not being Wishes, haven’t yet captured us, so as the last remaining “traditional” nighttime spectacular that may see us head over there, for tears and dread of the return home.

Day Seventeen – 30th June

We have a late flight home at around 7pm, so the day will be spent frantically packing, onboarding life-threatening amounts of food, probably some Disney Springs and then admitting defeat with a drive to the airport. We are flying home in Premium, so that’ll make up for having to come home right?

For the love of all things holy and not, please let this bloody thing happen. If for no other reason that you can’t go through another change of dates. It will break you.

Till the next time……

We March To June

I am not, it may shock to you learn, a “wait and see” kind of guy. One thing I am not blessed with is a laissez-faire, let things unfold attitude. Things escalate quickly with me, and after digesting the news and implications of the vaccine announcements last week, it became obvious to me very quickly that the 1st of March was going to be too soon. I suspect that the act of writing my thoughts down in last week’s post actually helped me to process all the information and options. So, yes, you guessed it, here we are, with this holiday rearranged again, on its third set of dates.

Why did I come to the conclusion that March wasn’t happening? Well, my thinking is….

  1. Our government seem to be suggesting that Easter 2021 will be a reasonable timeframe to vaccinate most of the vulnerable folks and begin relaxing restrictions etc. That’s April at best.
  2. Biden won’t have a chance to do much until late January so the US vaccine rollout will probably be worse and not better/quicker than ours.
  3. Even if borders are open for March, it would (in my view) still see theme parks with mask policies and that’s not ideal especially with a three-year-old who won’t understand why he is being forced to wear one.

So, I began the initial investigatory work on new dates in earnest early last week. The real push to do so actually came from a blog reader and long time Dibber/Disney associate, Matt, who contacted me after last week’s blog. He noted that I had said our current villa would not be available for any dates next year should we need to rearrange the trip again and he kindly suggested that his villa might be suitable. It just so happens that when he sent me the link, his villa was a gorgeous and glorious affair, very close to where our last booking was.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself a little. At that point, I had defaulted to our usual late August range of dates. I’m not sure why. I guess my inner diva wanted my birthday in WDW, having been denied it last year and we have just always gone at that time. After chatting with all members of our travelling party though, for reasons I won’t trouble you with, those dates may not have been ideal for various plans already in place for 2021.

So after discussion, it was suggested we look at earlier dates in the summer. So we needed a time that was far enough away that things may be somewhere adjacent to normal but close enough to avoid the reasons that late August wouldn’t suit some of us.

Typically for me, within minutes of that discussion, I was a whirling dervish of planning, spreadsheets, google searches and waiting to speak to Virgin. I was a little upset to see that US school kids are on holiday in June, but a little research suggested June was not as busy as July and early August. To be honest, I think all bets are off for what counts as busy for 2021 once things start to free up a bit.

I was a multi-tasking, multiple chat window planning animal. I had the usual chuckle whilst Virgin tried to tell me the price of our new flights, as they had apparently more than doubled for the first dates I suggested to them. It almost made the 90 minutes on hold worthwhile. A couple more tries with dates and a play around with cabins on a few dates saw new flights secured for less than the ones we had booked in March, so I’ll be getting a nice refund once they process that, so most likely it’ll hit my bank account just before next Christmas.

A quick request to Matt to change his quoted dates from August to June for the villa and that was secured too. So, before I get into any more details, I will share our new villa here, as everyone likes looking at Florida villas, don’t they? Here’s a random room from it.

I have taken the opportunity to start from scratch with the plan. There are some radical new ideas and approaches being taken for reasons I will share with you even though you don’t care. Those crazy new ideas have also been joined by something of a greatest hits element, with us somehow squeezing more into the time we are there and going back to some of our favourite hotels.

We will still be staying at the Hard Rock, and Louise and I will still get our night at the Beach Club that I was given for my birthday. The most radical change, breaking the unbreakable law that you have to be in Magic Kingdom on your first day is that we will begin our holiday at the Hard Rock. When working through the change of dates, I spotted a huge flaw in my original plan and that was that our 14-day WDW tickets would run out a day too soon if we went to a Disney park on the first day of our trip. So I had to go left field and have us go directly to Universal from the airport for two nights there, enjoying Front of Line access to everything.

From there we check into our villa and begin our time at the Disney parks. Our one night at the Beach Club slots in nicely in the middle of the trip and then, in a real quart and pint pot extravaganza, I have somehow shoehorned in two nights at the beach towards the end of our trip. This is always popular with sun-worshipper Louise but we all know that Freddie will also love time on the beach and a couple of days of not having to be somewhere at set times will be welcome for all.

I had toyed with the likes of Clearwater, St Pete’s and Cocoa Beach, but like a tractor beam built of familiarity and reliable quality, Vero Beach pulled us in, with our resistance being futile. We haven’t been there for many years and it will be lovely to go back.

So, having skipped this crucial detail so far, our new dates see us departing on the 14th of June and returning on the 30th of June 2021. Come on vaccine….do your thing and get us to some state of normality by then. I am missing WDW very badly indeed and need some incentive to shed some lockdown pounds too.

At this point, I just want a holiday that actually happens. I still don’t feel totally confident that even these dates will go ahead yet, but hopefully, as we move through the winter and spring, with lots of folks getting the jab, restrictions will fall away and life can begin again. As much as I do enjoy and (if I may say so) excel at planning all this stuff, having done so three times now, I do need the actual release of having the holiday at the end of it. Let’s have a collective crossing of fingers for this and everyone else’s upcoming trips.

Till the next time……

A Pandemic Prick

As a fully-fledged, badge-wearing social media keyboard warrior, armed with nothing more than an opinion and a mood swing, I often attempt to put the world to rights. It doesn’t look like it’s working, to be honest, but whichever omnipresent being you subscribe to loves a trier.

Similarly, when I look back at the content of these posts each week since the pandemic started, I have contradicted myself more frequently than a government press conference. Theories and thoughts about how this pandemic will play out, specifically, relating to my ever so important holiday, have been a pick ‘n’ mix of ever-changing word vomit. This week shall be no different of course, but I feel better about things when I demonstrate a least a soupcon of self-awareness.

With the ever encouraging news around vaccines, it finally looks as though there may be an end to all this. It will be a more welcome prick than all the others we have endured so far in this pandemic, myself included.

With that news, I have of course, outside of proper worrying about real, important things, been applying these new facts to our holiday and how it all fits together. To keep true to form, I am literally having arguments with myself, simultaneously getting excited because March isn’t very far away now and fretting about how hard it will be to rearrange everything for late summer as March will absolutely not happen.

I try to keep informed as best anyone can with zero actual qualifications and knowledge on a subject so here, let me present the cases for both as they are forming in my mind.

  1. It won’t happen

The vaccine will probably start to get deployed in December. You need two jabs, a month apart and then there is another 14-day waiting period until you are “immune”. That alone takes us deep into February even for the first to be jabbed to be sorted out and then before any form of serious relaxation of restrictions for anything can be relaxed, including non-essential travel, it will need to be seen that these steps are keeping the level of daily deaths down to “normal” levels and hospitals aren’t busy with COVID patients.

The above only really applies to the UK of course. Many of you will have gathered that I have little faith in any competence being displayed in anything COVID related by our current government. Surely….surely they cannot mess up the vaccine rollout? It is literally the thing they have been praying for which will allow them to not have to focus all their time on the pandemic and get back to their routine agenda of punishing the poor, destroying our relationship with Europe, enriching their friends, removing our freedom of movement and intentionally making us all poorer because they don’t like foreigners.

However, we also have to consider the US in this equation. With the soundly beaten former President barricading himself into the Oval Office and his golf cart, refusing to allow a smooth transition, this incredibly and unforgivably will have an impact on the speed and efficiency of the US rollout of a vaccine. Assuming Biden can’t do much until the orange one is dragged from the White House in late January, then their timescales are inevitably pushed back. It’s not a question of course of whether the parks will be open, as they already are, but of course, more crucially are US borders open to us and then as a special bonus point, are the parks able to stop insisting on masks and social distancing.

I put it to you, m’lud, that all of the above result in us having to move stuff again.

2. It will happen

The aviation and travel industry are on their knees. As soon as the most vulnerable start to get immunised, then the rest of us can be a bit less careful and social distancing rules could be relaxed and things can start to open up again. These industries will be crying out for help and the earliest possible resumption of their normal schedules. As long as the most at risk are taken care of, and advised to continue to self isolate until their vaccine is effective then economies may return to some form of normality.

A member of Sage, the medical folks, not the accounting software, today has suggested that in the UK, early Spring could see the “lockdown” stuff being relaxed as the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Could it be that our departure date, being the 1st of March and a signal that winter is over, be the actual date flights resume and we are on the first flight out to MCO, cheering, waving and being greeted at Orlando by cheerleaders and Joe Biden?

I rest my case(s).

On balance, the former seems to outweigh the latter if I am honest. The 1st of March just seems too close for everything to fall into place. As much as I like planning and booking stuff, the pain of doing so again fills me with dread and a foreboding of more expense as there is always more expense.

I already know our villa isn’t available for the rough dates we might like to move to and I am also filled with the horror of how busy everything might be in the late summer if things are normalish. I cannot cancel our villa and book another one now as I would lose the hefty deposit we have paid until travel is confirmed as not possible of course. Flight availability, a lack of decent villas and crowded parks are just the tip of anxiety iceberg.

As ever, these are trivial issues in a non-trivial situation, but hey, I need something to blog about right? It hasn’t helped (you) that the last week was a complete non-event house move wise, with no news, drama or updates to moan about. On that note, thanks for all the lovely comments and messages last week about our intended new home. Thank you for at least attempting to limit your eye rolls and disdain for the distasteful boasting. Once we’re in let’s have a blog reader house warming party. All three of you can stay over too.

Till the next time…….

C*ntry House

As the great poet and philosopher George Formby said, it turned out nice again. In what is and has been par for the course in Mkingdon land since our time on earth began, drama, crisis and faff are the currency in which we trade and somehow, inexplicably, often things turn out OK. There are many times they don’t of course, but let’s not go there.

I ended last week’s post with a minor fib. Forgive me. For those of you who can’t remember, didn’t read it, or really don’t care, let me remind you that I dropped a subtle hint of some upcoming kerfuffle with the purchase of our new house.

The seller, some five weeks after accepting our offer, still had not found anywhere to move to. This was causing our buyer and their buyer some concern and they were applying a lot of pressure to us to come up with some progress towards a moving date. Our seller also refused to even contemplate moving into rented accommodation to preserve the chain.

I get it. They were downsizing and finding it hard to find something that didn’t feel like a shoebox compared to their home of the last few decades, but it did not solve our issues and protect us from losing our buyer. We had looked at renting, but everything was a six-month minimum term and our menagerie of pets would have restricted our options to a field or a shipping container.

After several chats with our estate agent last week, their advice was to give our seller a deadline and start to keep an eye on what else was on the market as a Plan B, just in case. Unbeknownst to them (and Louise) I already had said plan B in my locker in the shape of a house I saw come onto the market just after we had our offer accepted on the original house. I had put it to the back of my mind, happy with our choice but as this situation developed I have to admit to looking at it, wondering if it were still available and half wishing the purchase might fall through so we could consider it.

So last Saturday morning I planted that seed in Louise’s mind. By 3pm, we were inside it (the house, not Louise’s mind) having a look around and by about 3.05 we were both exchanging knowing looks, certain that this had to be ours.

So taking our usual measured and considered approach, as we drove home from the viewing we phoned and made our offer. The vendor wanted time to think and would let us know on Monday. So you see dear reader, I knew all this last week but did not want to tempt fate or jump any guns by sharing it with you all.

The thing that sealed the deal for us was that the vendor had no onward chain. He has already bought a new house and is close to completing on that, so any issues with them finding somewhere to go were solved.

Monday came and as we had not heard by 11am I of course chased them up. What is it with people? Just do it. There followed a fairly intense day of negotiations and faff, resulting in an accepted offer at around 4.50pm, leaving me precious little time to inform estate agents and other interested folks.

We did feel bad about pulling out of the previous purchase, but, from their reaction, it feels like we did them a favour. They have “other stuff” going on in their lives, since agreeing to sell, and apologised for the lack of progress, wished us well and said they would take theirs off the market and come back to it next year. So we didn’t feel so bad after that.

What then followed was a week of very heavy admin, amending mortgage applications and informing solicitors to get everything moved over to the new house. Most of that is now done and so we now just wait for the survey, conveyancing and all the other stuff to happen before we can move. The estimated timeline seems to be January at the earliest.

Louise and I are both happier with the new place if I am honest. It is slightly further away from our current location, more rural, which is nice, bigger, better and just more suitable for our needs by quite some distance. Crucially, unlike the other house, Louise cannot think of any major works that it requires, so that’s just peachy.

It’s an old converted farmhouse and has retained a fair bit of land with it. It is a type and standard of house that we did not expect to ever be able to get, but for (almost) the same price as the other one, it seems we can, due to it being outside of our current location which carries a high premium due to the local schools. We care not one jot about schools at this point in our lives so that extra ten to fifteen minutes to get back to see our parents is worth every mile.

I do shudder at the thought of how braggy and crass all this is, and it makes me very uncomfortable (hence the title of this post) but you get all sorts shared here, the good and the bad, so I can only apologise.

So with another apology for the hideous nature of all this, here are some photos.

I’m looking forward to being a bit more out in the sticks and the dogs will love the extra outdoor space. So by feeling more genuinely excited about this new property than the previous one, I take from that it is meant to be and it, as I said at the beginning, turned out nice again.

Enough vomit inducing not so humble bragging. Let’s move on to vaccines and holidays.

The news of a vaccine coming within weeks was welcome of course. Many will have concerns about having it which is fair enough, but hopefully, it is a major step towards some form of normality. Looking at the rollout schedule, Louise will be eligible early doors I think as a health care worker, with the rest of our family then being fairly close to the end of the queue, so I don’t think this will rescue our March holiday if I am honest. Whether, once the most vulnerable are done, travel is opened up, I, of course, have no clue, but my thinking right now is that we’ll be more likely to be able to go in the late summer, when there’s a fair chance that most folks will have had the chance to have the vaccine and we may be able to move away from masks in the parks and social distancing.

Knowing Disney and their understandably risk averse nature, those two things may take longer still, but hearing about their recently announced losses, I would imagine they are very keen to get back to full capacity and no restrictions too.

However all that shakes out, it does seem that in the next six months or so, the worst of this may be behind us and that is at least some hope to cling to. The only trouble is, the longer we wait to go on holiday, the more airline seats I will have to book to cope with my work from home, lockdown inactivity ever-expanding girth which is accelerating at an alarming rate. How much are those ECVs to get around the parks? This whole thing has confirmed my thinking that it has only been WDW holidays and the fact that I had to leave the house to go to the office that has stopped me from eating myself to death.

I did ten minutes of gentle exercise yesterday and almost had to go to A & E. The long journey back to my legendary athletic build may be a long one, but as we get back to being able to look forward to stuff it may keep me honest and on it, which since March I have absolutely not been.

Till the next time……

Un-Presidented Joy

I’m Craig Williams, in Bolton and THIS is CNN.

What a surreal week it has been. Not that I have missed a moment of work to do so, but I have watched CNN for about five days straight. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. It has been its own parallel universe of interactive maps and incredulity at how long it takes to count votes. If nothing else, my geographical knowledge of America has increased by about 3000%.

Before this week I have dipped into CNN from time to time. If I screw up my eyes really tight and eat something that tastes of cinnamon, I can almost imagine I am in Florida whilst doing so. This week though felt like a week of holding my breath. This won’t be a political rant but, it was nice to exhale yesterday when the result was confirmed. I know little about Biden and have no idea if he will be a great President or not. In my view, it doesn’t matter who replaced Trump, just that somebody did. The rest can be worked on.

Getting back to the recent core focus of this blog, and whether we will be able to go on holiday at some point on the future, will this change make that any more or less likely? I have no clue. I’m an increasingly overweight alleged middle manager in a northern backwater and my insight into global pandemics is not something I would include on my CV.

I was really encouraged to see one of the first things Biden announced was his intention to at least have a go at sorting things out. He was taking briefings on the virus even whilst waiting for the results and has now said he is going to set up a task force to tackle it. The pleasing change is that it will be led by actual experts and scientists. That’s got to beat trying to ignore it, right?

Whether that will mean the timeframe for the US opening up to overseas tourists will be closer or further away is anyone’s guess. If they make a significant difference quickly then it may open up the borders, or if they know they have to play it safe and keep things closed for longer then it may not. Either way, I still suspect our March 1st departure is unlikely right now and we may have to go through the pain and expense of rearranging one more time.

I’m strangely sanguine about it and will just be happy for the adults to have a go at sorting it. If only the UK would take the same approach. The latest update there is that the £12bn test and trace system is currently managing to contact about 60% of people exposed to the virus. You can’t go to the pub, cinema or see your elderly parents but your kid is sat with 30 others in a small unventilated room with no mask. I for one cannot understand why we sit in the foreboding shadow of a second wave.

This very strange “Que sera sera” attitude towards a WDW trip is very unlike me and I suppose the intense focus on the house move is probably responsible for giving me something else to fret and obsess about. Perhaps once that is sorted I will be back to rocking in a corner listening to the Epcot Futureworld loop music.

As there is literally no better use of your ears (other than listening to O Canada) then I will point you at this. It is just ten hours of Epcot loop music, but you can always just start it again when it finishes.

Should we have to move the trip again, then I suspect we would move it to late summer, to pretty much a year after we should have been there. That’s a kick in the guts, but for my sanity’s sake let’s hope things are normal enough to do fun things again. Heaven knows how heavy the crowds are going to be whenever that happens. I’m not saying we won’t be there, enjoying the fact that we can jostle shoulder to shoulder with other folks to get a decent view of the fireworks, but I do think the park reservation system will stay for a while to cope with something other than the limited capacity due to a pandemic. With the prospect of the parks hitting full capacity for some time once restrictions are no longer needed, that would make sense. It’s far from ideal of course, but right now, that’s a step forward.

House wise, there is a sniff of some kerfuffle on the horizon as our seller still hasn’t found anywhere to go and is refusing to contemplate going into rented accommodation to save the chain. It’s been a month since they accepted our offer and we and the rest of the chain below us are all some way down the road now in terms of conveyancing and surveys etc so we are starting to apply some pressure (nicely) as there is a risk that buyers below us in the chain may get tired of waiting and look elsewhere, seeing the whole thing crash down. We have some options and tactics to pursue as next week begins so stay tuned for a bit more stress and hassle.

For those of you who know how well I deal with uncertainty, it will not be a surprise to you that the house and holiday situation are causing me stress, heartburn and a lack of sleep. To once again highlight the cruel injustice of the world, where some people see higher stress levels as a route to weight loss, it would appear my body needs triple its normal calorie intake to cope. This may not end well.

Till the next time……

A Prick Of The Conscience

Moving house, or attempting to, seems to elevate your waking state to a constant mild hum of stress, with occasional peaks. Mostly, I am just sick of people being in my house, be that for valuations, energy certificate surveys, viewings or as we had last week our buyer’s survey. Those with dogs will know the pain of corralling them away from visitors so they do not love them to death and potentially scare folks who don’t do well with dogs. It’s just all a bit of a faff.

From the second the surveyor left our house and we began the wait to hear the results, we did, of course, think that would return all sorts of negative stuff that would either reduce our sell price or completely scupper the sale. Our glass was on its side, rather than in any form of fullness, half or otherwise. We felt a little battered and bruised by the rough and tumble of the short process to date.

Last week I also spent a silly amount of time on the phone to the bank formally applying for our terrifying new mortgage. The chap from the bank now knows more about us and our spending habits than our immediate family. Again, we now await the decision of that jury. Waiting and stress. It’s just a lovely combination.

I don’t know when we might move. I guess there’s an outside chance of it being before Christmas should winds be blowing in the right direction and no hitches be encountered. Our estate agent has warned that the stamp duty exemption has created a spike in activity and solicitors are and will be busy so things may take a little longer than normal. For a process that is not known for its swiftness, this may mean we will have one last Christmas in our current house.

Of course, should the survey show our house was held together with sellotape and spit and was worth about £7.50, then the whole thing would be irrelevant and we’d be back to square one, just minus all the money we’ve now spent on surveys and other move-related things. Did I mention elevated stress levels?

Anyway, on Friday morning we received a phone call to confirm that our buyer’s mortgage offer had been issued, meaning that the survey was all good. This was good news of course and now meant that the harsh reality of moving was very likely a thing we’d have to actually go through with. Between now and then we will have to undertake one of THE biggest declutters the world has ever seen. Yesterday I began the enormous task of clearing out our cellar. Imagine a place where for eight years you have put stuff you don’t really need but don’t want to throw out. Well, now that has caught up with us and I’ll be rectifying it at length.

What I really need is some form of holiday or break to look forward to. Luckily I have such a thing booked for next March. How I am looking forward to that definitely going ahead.

I have to say that I have pretty much-made peace with the fact that this will not be happening. I would love to be convinced otherwise, but I cannot see anything that will significantly change between now and then. I do of course hope that very shortly the US gets a President who is not incompetent, deceitful and seemingly intent on killing his own citizens. If the US gets something like a plan in place that’s got to help, but it doesn’t fix our issues or open up the airways from the UK to the US.

Should we not be able to travel by March, I’m not sure what we will do. I suppose it will depend on the cancellation policies of the companies involved. I suppose we would rearrange to a later date again, mainly as I really fear for the future of many of these travel companies and want to spend some money with them to keep them viable for when this is all over, but the temptation to cancel the whole thing and come back to it when some form of normality is available is growing.

Florida seems to be doing OK if the published figures are accurate. I say OK, in the context of the number of deaths every day is stable as is the number of new cases. The theme parks seem safe, mainly as they are doing a good job of mask enforcement and social distancing. Maybe there’s a clue there for the rest of the world? Crowds are growing it seems, with Universal yesterday reporting that the parks hit capacity by mid-morning. Nobody really knows what capacity limits the parks are operating at, but with so little open in most parks, queues are long.

As that, of course, doesn’t look too enticing, some part of me thinks it would be better not to go in those circumstances, but another part of me would just like to be there.

The wild card in this game of holiday roulette is a vaccine but within the timeframes, we are working in, that seems unlikely. Would I have it? Yes. I suspect other countries might insist on incoming visitors having proof that they have done so, and for that and many other reasons, I would gladly endure the prick. However, I will not endure any prick who comes at me with anti-vax bollocks, and similarly that the COVID virus and resultant death toll is a hoax. Facebook is awash with “medical experts” spewing up this shite and if it’s not too much a contradiction, I wish a pox upon their collective houses.

I try not to let that make me too angry as it isn’t productive. These days, as you will know from my Twitter activity, there is much to bring despair and anger to daily life and the world is not in good shape. I keep that political stuff out of my blogs as nobody comes here for that. However, this week I am going to make an exception without apology. The decision to not provide food for kids who might need it over the school holidays was an abhorrent disgrace and I just needed to get that off my chest. How anyone can make peace with that is an absolute mystery to me. Sure, some parents are a bit shit, and maybe a few fit the Daily Mail stereotype of pissing their meagre funds away on iPhones, cigarettes and Sky, but even if that were true of the parents of every hungry child, how on earth is that the fault of the children? Honestly, if you can imagine any child in your life being truly hungry and without food and be able to imagine not doing whatever it takes to feed them, then please read another blog. Sigh…..

Let’s get back to more normal topics. For now, the whole house move thing is proving to be stressful, but in a way, a welcome distraction from fretting about the holiday every minute of every day. Even I have a limit as to how many things I can stress about at once.

As that house move shifts into the realms of reality, we are now confronting the “problems” of where all our stuff will go in the new place. This brings to light the lunacy of buying a house. It is odd, is it not, that the biggest purchase you are ever likely to make is decided upon within the few minutes you wander around a house. Now, as we have to think practically about what we will have and do in each room, I realise that I can’t actually remember most of the rooms in any detail. I say that as if I will have any input into those decisions. Of course, Louise will be doing that.

Let’s pull this meandering rant to a close with a collective wish for that vaccine. Ideally, all the medical experts from the Facebook comments section will be recruited into the teams trying to come up with a vaccine so that their undoubted expertise can speed things up.

Till the next time…..

Do Two Wrongs Make a Flight?

In my extensive array of skills, being wrong seems to be right up at the top of the list. It was only seven days ago that I came out with this whopper.

“My expectations of being able to go next March change on an almost daily basis. Right at this moment, I’d say I am slightly leaning towards it being possible. I can’t really articulate clearly why I feel that way. We have what is going to be a very challenging winter ahead of us and anything could happen, but ultimately it feels like as time goes by the world is learning to live with this thing a little more. You may remind me of this unusual optimism when I am undoubtedly proved wrong.”

Within 48 hours of that nonsense, I was indeed proved wrong and it now feels like I could not have been wider of the mark had I tried. With the incompetence driven second wave and lockdown seemingly all but inevitable, and new restrictions being in place possibly for six months, then our March 1st trip seems less likely than ever.

It’s just so sad. There is no other word for it. The seemingly endless woe is getting to us now, and even though I dread most winters, this one is going to be a doozy. I don’t know about you, but we’re all feeling the darkness of the tunnel which currently seems to be without an end for there to be light at.

As we watched various “leaders” from different parts of the UK deliver their addresses mid-week, it really did feel like we were watching some far fetched disaster movie. How we took stuff for granted pre-COVID.

Then, later in the week, Florida went all Florida and announced that COVID is apparently over in the sunshine state and all restrictions were being lifted. We can only hope that people keep up the stuff they have been doing to stay safe. Theme parks, I am putting my faith in you to keep the rules you currently have. Increase capacity if you must, but for all our sakes, keep the masks and distancing.

Let’s hope they realise that the numbers of sensible folks who recognise it’s worth taking precautions to increase the chances of folks not dying outweigh the number that drive to the parks in a car wearing seatbelts and on the correct side of the road to avoid death, but think that a face-covering suggests their lives aren’t their own. I think if they lifted all the current safeguards they may lose more visitors than they gain.

So in one week, I may actually have (and not for the first or last time) been wrong twice. The UK put rules in place, potentially for six months, that suggest I’m going to no further than the kitchen till April and then Florida ripped up the rule book and kicked off a COVID party. You can perhaps see why my thoughts around our holiday taking place change on a regular basis.

In other news, you may also remember last week me telling you how we had put the house up for sale? We went “live” on the internet on Monday evening. We had three viewings on Tuesday and accepted a very pleasing offer on Wednesday morning. Other than not knowing where we are going to live next, this is a mighty relief and shows that a pandemic seems to be a good thing for the property market. I suspect the current stamp duty exemption offer is driving a lot of activity. The joy at knowing we don’t need to go through the superhuman efforts of getting the house that clean and tidy again is lovely.

Not one to dwell on pleasing things, my mind is now crammed full of all the things that could go wrong and the horrors of physically moving all our crap to a new location. Before it can be half full, I need to find a glass.

So now we find ourselves looking for a place to live in a property market where everything is selling within 48 hours for more than the asking price. We have two viewings today and if neither of those work out then, based on the current stuff for sale in our area and budget, I may be shopping for tents and portable heaters.

So, leaving the inconsequential nonsense of where we might live and returning to the more crucial subject of our Disney trips. All of you out there with trips booked, no doubt having already moved them once or twice, how are you feeling now? Do you think the lifting of restrictions in Florida is another step towards overseas tourists being allowed in? Will it matter what the US do if the shit show in the UK continues?

These questions are going to be repeated for us all for many motnhs I fear.

Till the next time…..

The Joy Of No Jetlag?

In a world that doesn’t suck big hairy devil balls, today’s blog post would have been me moaning about just having landed back in the UK, being jet lagged, cold, dreading work but at least having a decent reason to be the weight I am now. I’d also have to be trying to motivate myself to start the trip report.

Just think about all that moaning you have been saved from. That’s at least one thing you can thank the pandemic for.

So I suppose in some small way I should feel better now. Had we just got back, we wouldn’t have a countdown, it would be at least a year until we may go back and there would be a whole lot of real-life stretching out before me.

To fill the void in my life, I have been doing some regular vlog watching. I couldn’t for the longest time. It was too painful. It still is, and there are times when I see a certain location on a vlog and I feel physical pain at how much I am missing it, but on balance it is helping a little.

I have two go-to vloggers now to get my fix of the parks, which is precisely double the amount I had pre-lockdown. The Trackers, of course, are the default setting, and now thanks to a recommendation here some weeks ago, Paging Mr Morrow. They do cover much of the same stuff of course as many vloggers do. Indeed, I think half of the current park visitors are vloggers, but they do it quite differently.

What I like about Paging Mr Morrow is that he indulges in food like a tourist should when in the parks. Multiple beers and snacks are the default setting for most of his videos. In fact, some of them make me feel like I am the model of restraint.

I’ve also continued to review and edit our own home movies from the last couple of decades in an attempt to fill the void. You can subscribe to my very own YouTube channel if you like (guys), so as I upload you can watch them. That channel has existed forever as more of a dumping ground for random videos I wanted to save, but with our WDW videos now digitised, I do aim to edit and post all the “good” bits there. I have been gaining subscribers at the rate of around one every five years, so it’s only a matter of time until I too can give up my day job and rely on the advertising revenues my “content” generates.

Yesterday I added a couple more videos. One was spectacularly badly filmed footage of the Osborne Lights in what was MGM back in January 2005. The second was one that really only has interest and value to us, but I’ll share it with you. It’s a lovely clip of us in Olive Garden, again on the same trip over December 2004 and January 2005 with Rebecca playing rock, paper, scissors with her Grandad. There was some glorious cheating going on, and I’ll leave you to ponder who that was being done by.

It’s a daft little video and probably of little interest to anyone but us, but I uploaded it to make sure we never lost it. Yes, there are large spectacular events on a WDW holiday. Fireworks, shows, parades and all the castle stuff, but sometimes these little moments mean more. You can see we are all knackered, but we’re happy, full of good food and just enjoying being there.

I had totally forgotten this had happened of course. It is just one meal in a cavalcade of eating experiences over the years, so to find it within all the other footage was lovely.

Of course, it didn’t help with my feelings of missing the place. We’ve eaten in that particular Olive Garden more frequently than many of the restaurants near our house. I can almost feel the atmosphere there, the smells and of course the breadsticks and salad which, and I will not enter into any debate on the subject, are the best on the planet.

So as we slip back into all sorts of new lockdowns, and us Mkingdons feel like we are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of work and not a lot of fun, loins are having to be girded, and teeth gritted as we try to get through what feels like a bit of a grim time right now. For so many of us who congregate here of a Sunday, our trips to WDW are a bright light at the end of our tunnels, and right now they are a very dim glow, so far in the distance that they are almost invisible.

So you see, I shamelessly lured you into a blog post by telling you how in different circumstances I might be moaning about stuff and then, like some form of politician, I pull a sucker punch and deliver moaning anyway, just of a different flavour.

With Louise working all weekend, I shall step away from the keyboard now to attend to my chores. It’s probably best for all concerned.

Don’t forget (guys), Like, Subscribe and all that jazz on my YouTube channel (that’s what you say to become an internet sensation right?) so that within a matter of weeks I can be earning my living doing brand endorsements for funeral plans and incontinence pants. I’ll be uploading exciting content as regularly as ever, which to date has been about three videos a year. Watch out Tracker, I’m coming for ya!

Till the next time……..

Being 50 Is A Beach…..

You may have noticed that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement about my imminent birthday. Firstly, as a milestone, it was one that just confirmed I was old(er). Secondly, of course, I was in the wrong country. However, in a turn of events that bucks the trend and tone of recent weeks, I had a really lovely day.

It started as planned with a round of golf with my Dad. Having played about three or four times this summer, there were actual signs that I knew what I was doing in short bursts and it was very enjoyable. The weather was glorious, and as we sat out on the patio outside the clubhouse enjoying a post-round beer, my brother phoned me from France, where he has spent the summer at his cottage. He was just about to set off on the long drive back to his imminent quarantine and he called to wish me a happy birthday.

On my return home, everyone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the day as lovely as it could be. There was a US themed lunch laid on, with almost as many calories involved as I may have eaten had we been in WDW. Hot dogs, cupcakes, cheesecake, Danish (is that the plural?) and all sorts of other wonderfully unhealthy snacky delights were on offer alongside this glorious cake.

So I spent the afternoon eating food and receiving gifts, which is always a decent way to spend your time.

There was everything from cash (always welcome) to useful stuff I needed like clothes, alongside lots of really thoughtful stuff that blew me away. Rebecca and Tom put together a really lovely photo collage which had been framed and will take pride of place somewhere in the house once it gets moved from its current location on the mantlepiece. Louise had the absolute nerve to buy me a new rucksack, suggesting that it might be time for Ryan to be replaced. Do I want to replace Ryan? As Rebecca said when I’d unwrapped it….

Cut It GIFs | Tenor

Amongst the many things my Mum & Dad got me, the highlight was this lovely keepsake. This will be worn as I walk Rebecca down the aisle next year and generally looked after as a lovely memento of turning 50.

Emily had put together a photo/music presentation, (in addition to getting me some Vans cos I am a cool and trendy Dad who is well down with the kids) which it turns out mainly included photos of me with food all over my face. It chronicled our trips over the years and the ever-increasing number of my chins, but it was lovely, and at the end, there was “just one last thing”…..

The final photo bore the caption….. The Beach Club was looking forward to welcoming me back.

Lousie and the girls know this is my favourite resort. No, that’s an understatement. It is one of my favourite places on the planet. They have arranged a night there during our trip in March for Louise and I. The fact that they had the absolute nerve to amend THE PLAN was forgiven. Having very sneakily got access to it without my suspecting a thing a few weeks ago, they have expertly dropped this addition in, without too much disruption and I can’t wait.

All in all, I was overwhelmed with everything and the huge efforts everyone had gone to in order to stop me sulking like a huge man-baby.

Of course, as soon as the “festivities” were over I had to fire up the laptop, dive into the plan and make sure the new addition was properly catered for. I am not known as a complete control freak for nothing.

They had done well to be fair. It bodes well for the years when I am no longer able to do all the planning and just need to be wheeled between meals and fireworks shows. Our stay is on the night of what would have been my birthday had we been there now, with that day seeing us in Epcot with (ADRs permitting) brunch at Beaches & Cream and dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion. So being able to wander back to the Beach club afterwards works well. Tom will have to assume driving duties and transport everyone else back to the villa.

The next day was marked as Volcano Bay, but it would be wasteful to leave the Beach Club early in the morning to do so, so that has been sacrificed so that we can spend the day at the resort. The others will spend a leisurely morning at the villa before joining us at some point for some rest time at one of the quiet pools there. That evening has hopes of dinner at Whispering Canyon, before the next two days being spent at the Hard Rock at Universal. This detailed level of planning pleases me greatly.

So after a lovely bank holiday Monday, I have spent my week off work mainly eating all the glorious leftovers from the celebrations. I have eaten more high-calorie crap this week than I may have done had we been in WDW. A bold statement, but the scales back up this claim. There has been some unavoidable unpleasantness in the form of DIY, but overall, so far being 50 has gone quite well.

As evidence of some sort of acceptance, I don’t even know where we should have been on this day had we been in WDW. If that isn’t a demonstration of maturity and personal growth, I don’t know what is. Being 50 might be good for me.

Till the next time……

Fifty Shades of Beige

I’m sick of moaning. You’re sick of me moaning. I get it. This week’s post could very easily be a shit fest of self-pity and woe is me. Let’s face it, most of my posts are, but in a week where every day I am thinking where I should be instead, it would be a miracle if it were not.

I will desperately try to perform that miracle.

FYI though, so far this week we should have eaten at O’hana, Teak Neighbourhood Grill, Bahama Breeze and today would have been Yak & Yeti.

On the plus side…..erm……I don’t have to go to work next week. When cancelling my annual leave I retained a week just to not be at work for a bit. I have been working hard and I haven’t had a break since before lockdown so I need to be away from it for a bit. The fact that we are currently in the middle of decorating a couple of bedrooms is the perfect metaphor for 2020.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday. Unlike in the alternate universe in which I would be in Epcot, I have no plans other than I am playing golf with my Dad in the morning. I’m not very good but I enjoy it. I have given very strict instructions that there should be no elaborate celebrations. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be together in groups larger than….I mean on a Wednesday, if it’s raining, I can see six members of my family….erm, every other week, if I close my eyes I am allowed to sit outside with…..

No, I haven’t got a clue what we are allowed to do, but I know that a large family gathering, even if I wanted one, is not allowed. I know it makes me an ungrateful grinchy knob, but I just don’t feel in the mood for big celebrations. I’m sure I will see everyone that matters at some point, at whatever the currently allowed distance is and that’s all that counts.

I did pick up my car on Thursday. It’s nice. It’s like my old one, but silver and a bit newer. It has a lot more gadgets though including voice commands. I need to sit in it for several hours learning what everything does so that I can use my voice to do things and concentrate all my efforts on moaning about my commute, should I ever do that again.

Still, at least the weathers’s been nice.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, Redes sociales

A lot of the angst we are feeling is due to the fact that the rescheduled dates in March feel very shakey too. For a family used to having a concrete countdown, this does not work well. How’s Florida doing? Better, if you believe the reported numbers. I don’t so much.

Ever since the reporting of numbers was moved from the CDC to the Whitehouse, amazingly, the numbers of cases have immediately and drastically declined. Even if those numbers were true then case numbers of around 3,000 per day and deaths of over 100 still do not make great reading for the state….never mind what’s really happening.

So I still cannot foresee borders being opened, certainly not before the election over there. With the new (please!) President not taking office till January, any lifting of travel restrictions to the US from the UK is going to be close to the wire for a 1st of March trip I think.

So as this descends into another moan-fest I should slap myself, count my blessings and stop being an annoying douche bag, right?

I have reached 50, all of my family are here and healthy, we are not living in poverty or hardship and I have a car that I can talk to. I am like some sort of portly, older Marty McFly, living in the future we all dreamed of….apart from the highly contagious deadly disease and the fact that there’s no Huey Lewis in Bolton. Swings and roundabouts and I need to watch Back To The Future again.

Anywho, as I live through the last few hours of my forties I suspect I won’t feel very different when I wake up in my 50’s tomorrow. As I plan to live to at least 120, my mid-life crisis isn’t due until I am 60. The coming decade of my 50’s holds the hope of it being better than my 40’s. We went through a lot during that time. Louise returning to study to become a nurse was a challenge, there was also some “nastiness” right at the start of my 40’s that saw my, to that point stellar, career hit a few bumps. (It wasn’t at all stellar and hasn’t been since either). Those and other financial challenges were tough and hopefully behind us. There were all sorts of dramas involving the girls, but this is par for the course and I expect nothing less in every decade to come to be honest, but hopefully, as they get older these shall be less frequent and less traumatic.

Of course, Freddie joined us in my 40’s and that would be the highlight of any decade. I hope to spend however many decades I have left spending as much time as possible with him, whenever possible, in Florida.

Some of you reading this will have been with me through all of that and in some cases, for many years before. I first started over sharing stuff about my life and family online around 2003 on various forums (remember those?). I don’t even find my own life that interesting so I can only applaud in awe your tolerance for mediocrity and average writing. We’re approaching twenty years of me papping on and both of you that read this every week are still here.

I am away now to spend the last day of my 40’s doing a bit of decorating. At some point, at a time totally of my own choosing, I will also walk the dogs. The fact that I should, by rights, be in Animal Kingdom won’t be on my mind at all.

Till the next time……

World Class Whinging When WDW Wasn’t

You’ve known this was coming. I have known this was coming. The last few months have been like standing on a beach watching the tsunami approach, fascinated by it, but unable to do anything but surrender to its majestic and irresistible force. This blog post should have been my last before heading off to Florida for my special 50th birthday celebrations.

That fact that it is not may see levels of moaning and childish foot stampery than has ever been witnessed and we all know this blog has witnessed a lot of that over the years.

It’s a gut-wrenching pain. A sorrow so deep that it is eating me up inside as the intended day of departure gets closer. It’s the little things. That magical early morning at the airport when you are an over-excited bundle of new trainers, not much sleep and an £80 breakfast. The passive-aggressive social media posts from the airport with no other intention than to signal to anyone watching that you are going on holiday and they aren’t. Sigh…..

The happy, aimless wandering around duty-free shops, spending amounts on pointless perfume that you would normally resist paying for a week’s grocery shopping. That combination of dozens of perfume sample smells mixed with Starbucks coffee and raw anticipation should be bottled and sold….oh wait it probably is.

It’s the strange zombie-like state in which you queue for immigration upon arrival at Orlando airport and then jostle for your cases before inevitably waiting for Louise to spend half an hour on the toilet, despite having sat next to one for the last nine hours.

The sudden shock of being behind the wheel of a large unfamiliar car, on the wrong side of the road with a “trunk” full of luggage and a bum crack full of sweat. The toss of a coin decision as to which exit you’ll take out of the airport, as despite having gone every year for two decades, it always feels like they changed the entire road layout since last year.

The absolute all-consuming relief as you wedge your “as slim as it’s going to get for a few months” body into the booth at the first night eatery of choice after dumping the cases and doing the supermarket shop. The blissful feeling of a whole new holiday lying in front of you untouched.

You see, what I should be doing right now is stressing out over incoming tropical storms and hurricanes, wondering if the 20 day build up on the news will deliver total carnage or a light drizzle….like these two currently making their way to the US, potentially spoiling the holiday I’m not having. The fact that I am not currently spending more time with Denis Philips than my family is not OK.

Sigh……again. The mood, as you might imagine, has not been ebullient in Mkingdon Towers this week.

In this week that should have been, I don’t wish to come across like a “playa” but to lift the mood I bought a new car. I didn’t just wander into a showroom with a bag of cash and demand the keys. My average family saloon is three years into a four-year deal and typically this is past when we do a swap/upgrade. Having just had it serviced and MOT’d last week, I walked out of the dealership after the rare experience of not having spent a penny. I had a service plan that covered the routine stuff. I did, however, have an estimate for work that was “necessary very soon” for just over a grand, so dropping the car like a hot brick into the arms of the dealership giving me a “new” car was the right thing to do. I pick it up next week. I don’t know what day yet, but by rights, it needs to be Wednesday at around 11am when we should have been accelerating down the runway.

At my time of life, this new car should be a large red convertible. It is instead a silver mid-range family car. What mid-life crisis?

The car I should be driving next week is the ridiculously huge thing I have hired for our Florida adventure. It is an extravagance I feel no need to justify. What will be odd this next trip, which as you may know, is not happening next week, is that there will be other potential drivers. Usually, I do all the driving. I don’t mind. I enjoy it and I can even tolerate Diet Coke most of the time. However, Louise says she wants adding but we also have Tom and Emily who are both now over the magical 25 years of age. Emily doesn’t fancy it, not wanting to “kill us all”, but I bet Tom wants a go, so I may get a beer or two. Not being the best passenger in the world (control freak? Me?) I may need those beers and a blindfold to let someone else navigate the Orlando roads.

So when Wednesday morning comes, and I am sat on my seven millionth Teams call, barely feigning interest, my heart will be at Manchester airport and the trip that never was. I’d ask you to spare a thought for me, but I know that so many of you are in the same position and have your own struggles to deal with.

You might think that this blog post will be the drawing of the sting, and with the passing of departure day I will be “over it”. It’s almost as if you don’t know me at all. The week after next will be my actual birthday and next Sunday will not only see me continue to piss and moan about not being in WDW, I’ll be on the precipice of my fifties too. I bet you can’t wait.

Till the next time…..

I Tube, YouTube, We All Tube

I issued a warning that this may happen just a few weeks ago.

You may remember me telling you that I had finally paid a king’s ransom to have a load of our old camcorder tapes put on t’internet. They are now stored online, on a USB stick and some DVDs. We’re never losing this stuff!

They are formatted in line with the original tapes, so that’s roughly 90 minutes at a time. There’s a lot of guff on there that is only ever going to be of (mild) interest to us, so they shall not be shared in their original state.

However, being the technical genius that I is, last week I figured out how to chop them up into (almost) palatable chunks and whether you like it or not, you’re having some.

I started with 2001. I don’t know why. This was our first trip as a four and was not trip reported. A scandal I know. We stayed at the All Star Sports, paying massively over the odds for a package deal booked over the phone (ridiculous!) with one of those holiday selling channels that used to be on your telly.

There was so much wrong with how we booked and failed to plan this trip that I am almost glad it is undocumented. It does, however, contain lots of lovely and important memories for us, which now, for the first time in almost twenty years, we can watch without hooking the camcorder up to the telly with a combination of cables more complex than NASA used to launch folks to the moon.

I won’t share stuff you’ve all seen a million times. As an example, I, of course, videoed every second of the Legend of the Lion King. This happens most years. But let’s start with something a little random. We only saw this once (I think), but this was a show that used to happen in Camp Minnie Mickey, starring Pocahontas and on this day, some quite unreliable animals. The restraining order I took out in 2001 against Pocahontas is still in force as far as I know.

On the subject of things that are no longer around. Back in 2001, before the Beauty & The Beast show, you got another one. We used to love this, and the small detail of these guys walking out on stage as if they were part of the “tech team” for the show and starting to sing, was really one of those bits of magic that make the place so special. I give you, Four For A Dollar. I apologise for the incredibly shaky camera work. I was zooming in from Tampa.

Next, we move on to a parade that no longer exists. There are a number of these, and I think Spectromagic is the one I miss the most, but this was probably Emily’s favourite. You can see her having it scorched into her psyche halfway through this brief video.

Recognising that watching somebody else’s twenty-year-old camcorder classics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, (but reserving the right to do it in the future) I’ll end with a clip of the girls in The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom. I hope I’m around in another twenty years to post the clip we have of Freddie doing the same for the first time from last year!

Just in case I’m not, then here is Freddie 18 years later.

This video demonstration of how quickly times passes and how precious each trip is serves as a nice segue way into me telling you that I am feeling the onset of a gargantuan sulk that we won’t be in WDW at the end of August. The hurt is growing day by day and I cannot be held responsible for my enormously immature outbursts in the coming weeks. At the risk of being maudlin, you never know how many more trips you have in you and to have one stolen from us is smarting a bit. Sure, yes, I have things in perspective as usual. It’s what I do.

I think that mood is enhanced, nay worsened, by the real concern that March may not happen either. I know that’s all negative nelly, but in the absence of any concrete change that is likely between now and then, we may be no further forward by that stage. That, of course, stinks.

Regardless, I did a bit of plan tweaking yesterday. With thanks to whoever pointed me at the Paging Mr Morrow vlogs, we have watched his lovely series of resort stays recently and a vlog where he ate at Whispering Canyon Cafe. That, of course, is a favourite of ours and was somehow not on the plan for the next trip. Well, it is now, for a few reasons.

  1. It’s great fun
  2. The food is hearty and wonderful
  3. They do unlimited milkshake refills (Tom may be banned).
  4. They do a Vegan skillet for Emily
  5. It has taken the place of The Outback on our plan.

That last point is a surprise to us too. The Outback holds a special place in our hearts and yearly plans but with Emily now Vegan, it had to go. It seems all that Emily would be able to have there would be the bread. Add to that, for some reason they have blocked their menu to anyone outside of the US on the internet so we couldn’t even look to see if they added any Vegan stuff since last year, and it just had to be sacrificed.

The Outback is our traditional arrival night go to, mainly due to location, so a little bit of surgery was required on the plan. It didn’t seem wise to do a straight swap and book an ADR for Whispering Canyon for our arrival night. We can’t guarantee what time we’d be there and ready to eat and if Freddie would be awake and up to a meal out after all that travel. So, our arrival night eatery will be a new experience for us, with Ford’s Garage getting the nod, mainly as it is on the 192 close to our villa.

Whispering Canyon has slotted in where Ford’s previously sat on the evening of our planned day at Volcano Bay. I bet you feel better for knowing all that now, right?

Let’s hope we do get to eat at these places in March!

Till the next time……

Feeling and Falling Down

Holy moly I am missing WDW.

That could start any of my posts, any week, any year, but right now, it stings like a hot curry the morning after. For most of lockdown, I haven’t really been able to watch any of my favourite vloggers. That’s a narrow list to be honest, but with the prospect of getting there so small, watching them didn’t fill the hole, it just widened it.

I don’t know what’s happened in recent weeks but I have relented and been able to watch a few. I am not a good enough writer to express how much I miss the place. It’s not just Main Street and the castle and all the cliches you might expect, it’s just the atmosphere of the whole place, how we feel when we are there and an inexplicable feeling of comfort and ease.

The heat that wraps around your body, contrasted with the palpable relief of a good dose of air conditioning. The comforting welcome you get in almost every eatery and that warm glow you feel when you are seated and start to read the menu, knowing you are about to eat well.

There are few times and places to compare to a Floridian dusk. The strange half and half light as night begins to take over from the day, lights begin to twinkle and the temperature drops to one that is almost bearable. Mix that with the unmistakable smell of Florida and that’s home when we’re not at home.

There’s just a feeling of belonging that we have developed and embraced over the years that can’t be easily explained as I have just demonstrated. For us, Florida has thousands of different faces, sights and sounds and they all play their part.

So of course, Tim Tracker was the default choice. I know he is the obvious choice but I feel less guilty as I’ve been watching him for some years, before he became so big vlogging became his job. Good luck to him.

Seeing him do the parks in this new masked fashion is interesting of course and it’s nice to see the place, even if we can’t be there, but it is also sad. It reminds me of what used to be and what currently can’t be. As much as I yearn for that of course, I am a little bit scared of how busy the parks will be at the point at which masks and social distancing are no longer required. It’s gonna get crazy, but right now, I, no doubt like all of you, would take that over where we are today.

In the desperate search for positives around the fact that we are not in the final stages of our countdown as we should be now, last night, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were here for tea and noticing that Freddie seemed to have grown another few feet since we last saw him a few days ago, we were wondering how the extra few months would affect what rides he could go on. He’s tall for a two-year-old and after a quick measure this morning Rebecca has reported that he is currently 39 inches without shoes.

So with seven months to go (I could weep), there is every chance he will get to 40″ and be able to enjoy many rides for the first time. If his growth carries on at this rate he may reach 42″ and that opens up all sorts of scary stuff for someone of his age. We’ll just need to start small and build him up to the bigger rides and see how he reacts.

I don’t think Louise and I particularly covered ourselves in glory with the girls when we went with them during their small years. I do remember buying Rebecca some Jellies with heels on to help get her onto stuff, as she was always a daredevil and would ride anything. Having said that I do recall her crying as we got off the monorail after riding upfront with the driver (remember that being an option?) but I think was first day over-excitement and jet lag.

We probably dragged them onto stuff they weren’t ready for at different points in our travels. This may be the reason that even now at 25, Emily has a morbid fear of the Dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom. As parents, we’ve not done too badly, but perfect we ain’t.

So I might watch a few more vlogs later. It’s dangerous on a Sunday as the black dog of depression can often visit on the day before work resumes. Add to that the fact that I should be a couple of weeks away from that exciting early morning at the airport and there could be a Michael Douglas Falling Down moment around Bolton.

To make matters worse, tomorrow morning I have my car in for a service. I always play the prediction game on such days. I guess the time of the phone call from the garage and the amount of money I will be required to pay to fix whatever issues have been discovered. Despite years of practice I always underestimate the financial wounds inflicted upon me.

If you see news reports tomorrow of any kind of rampage in a Bolton car dealership then remind me to delete this post as it may harm my defence.

Till the next time……

Living La Lockdown Loca

I am blogging to you now, live from lockdown in the North West of England. As we all try to familiarise ourselves with yet more disinformation and confusion designed to allow the government to shift the blame to others, we can no longer see other households unless we are spending money at the same time.

This whole mess is just soul-destroying and the incompetent handling of it is just prolonging everyone’s agony. I watched in horror as Johnson, like some rotting haystack of incompetence, was on my telly doing his own Trump-style cognitive test, spouting shite about face, space and hands. The announcement of this lockdown, with about twelve minutes notice, via social media, where are all the vulnerable, elderly folks are hanging out at close to midnight has resulted, as you might expect, in there being absolutely no discernable difference in behaviour as far as I can see.

To be honest, lockdown makes little difference to me. Since March I’ve been to the local Sainsburys three times and played a couple of rounds of golf with my Dad. Who is or isn’t in your bubble now, if a bubble is still a thing, is anyone’s guess and I suspect most people are completely ignoring whichever flavour of government advice is currently on the telly and doing what they think is sensible and safe.

It is, to use one of my favourite words, an absolute shambola.

I have no issue working from home. I get more done, am less angry (that’s what the commute does to a person) and the joy of closing the laptop at whatever time I finish and being home and ready to do nothing of an evening is very welcome.

However, it would be nice to be able to go out gigging with Mustard again at some point. There is absolutely no chance of that happening any time soon in my view, but when we can, that will be welcome. I’d also like to have a holiday, but that’s waaaayyyy off in March, so that’ll be fine right?

Those of you who have been with me a while will know the “fondness” I feel for Disney Facebook groups. Some are great resources for information and chatting with like-minded folks. Others are a cesspit of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid. Maybe we should start our own dear blog readers?

Anywho, this week I joined one called Vintage Disney World and it’s great. Granted I haven’t been there long enough to know for sure that it isn’t full of power-obsessed whack jobs who I would cross a multi-lane motorway to avoid, but the early signs are good as I have not yet been banned.

I posted a few photos from my first WDW experience in 1980 but other than that I have very much enjoyed seeing some posts from others, some going back as far as 1972. This was one of the 1980 photos I shared.

It’s incredible how much has changed of course. Take a look at the group if it sounds like your thing. (I am in no way sponsored, paid or in a position of power in this group). That isn’t to say that if a brand wishes to shower me with cash and/or gifts I am not prepared to whore myself out and give you a mention as often as you like. Bring it on!!

The one thing that a group like that reminds you of is the constant change at WDW. Even over the course of the time the girls have been going, the number of changes is impossible to count or remember. This will always be the case. However, the worry now is that the current desperate circumstances may force some decisions onto Disney that it may not have taken or at least not yet.

With revenues so low and no sign of that improving, bad news may be inevitable. As evidence, I present you this rumour which has struck horror deep into the heart of the Mkingdon household today.

I know Disney is having all sorts of challenges with the actors that feature in these type of shows and I can only hope that things can be sorted out to the satisfaction of all parties and we don’t lose absolute classics like this show from the parks.

I know, in the midst of a pandemic, that the impact on a theme park may not be a top priority, but at some point, it will be over and I can’t help wondering what might be left for us at that point.

Sigh.

Next, if you will allow me to abuse my very small platform, I wonder if any of you may feel inclined to sign this petition for Emily. She is incredibly upset about what she saw at this place yesterday. I have no idea if anything can be done but she is determined to make a difference and if you feel like you wish to support her she would appreciate it massively.

I shall end this week by wishing Mrs Mkingdon a very happy 24th wedding anniversary for tomorrow. I salute her for entering into the commitment all those years ago, to go to WDW on holiday every year. I am a joy and delight to live with so try not to be too envious of her for getting to do that for over a quarter of a century now.

Till the next time…..

Birthday Bonanza

This week, in an attempt to reassure my bosses that I am competent I spent most of it reciting five random words. Several of them were not even swear words. I await my pay rise with tepid anticipation.

The world has indeed gone completely bonkers and I stare, mostly at Twitter, in a catatonic state of disbelief for large parts of my day. I need to get out more…oh wait….

Today is not a day for morbid bemoaning of world events, and political incompetence, instead, it is the time to celebrate the fact that I have had a daughter for a quarter of a century and am clearly very, very old. Emily’s birthday is today and probably much like you, I cannot quite fathom how she has the gall to be 25.

If there is anything to be thankful for about that, it is that of course that we are no longer infected and inflicted with a house full of noisy kids having a sleepover where nobody, including me and Louise, ever slept. I do remember one such event “fondly” which involved me trying to make our brand new kitchen floor less sticky for a good few hours after one lovely hyper child spilt a full two-litre bottle of coke all over it. Hello to Simon, wherever you are.

Instead, Emily is, of course, spending her day with her boyfriend and we are wishing her well electronically. As ever, this is the circle of life. Happy Birthday pud!

It also means that today is Oli’s birthday too. It is spooky that they share a birthday, but of course, Oli is not yet 25. We got Oli for Emily when she passed her GCSEs and I have walked him ever since. He and I are showing signs of age now of course and the walks that we do are more of me dragging him along rather than what was the opposite for many years. Bless him. He will probably never forgive us (well it was Louise technically) for introducing Bean to his a life a few years ago. She is the annoying younger sister every elder sibling loves to have.

Right now, Oli is spending his birthday in the the only way he knows how.

Next in line for a birthday in the household is me. As you can imagine, my anticipation of it has diminished considerably of late and I am contemplating just emulating Oli’s approach to it as I cannot be in my location of choice.

In the world of holidays, not much has changed. Florida, along with most of the US, seems to be embracing the Walking Dead approach to controlling a pandemic. With each passing week and each notch of the graph over which new records are set on infections, my hopes of our March trip take a bit of a dive. I cannot make any sense of it.

With our trip some time away, and with half of me expecting that we won’t go anyway, my interest in happenings in the parks has dimmed a little, but from the small snippets I have seen online, they look quiet. Very quiet. It has to be a worry that this can’t be financially sustainable for the theme parks. I’m not sure whether they were losing more money when shut or now that they are open. Whilst infection rates soar there can surely be no chance of international visitors being allowed in, even assuming anyone wanted to, and as if 2020 hasn’t been surreal enough, it is not beyond the realms of imagination that some parks don’t survive.

I don’t think Disney is at risk of that. I don’t know of course, but surely they have enough backing and other revenue streams to survive, I hope, at least, but some of the smaller ones could be in trouble. This, of course, must be the case across multiple industries and makes the unbelievably irresponsible inaction on the whole thing in large parts of the US unfathomable.

Having said all that about being disinterested in how the parks are doing and pessimistically downplaying our chances of going in March, it has not stopped me from performing some surgery to the plan. That surgery involved me cramming more food into our trip, like an LA plastic surgeon cramming triple DDDs into their client. Like them, I think I want it, but everyone else knows it’s just a step too far. (What? I have watched the odd episode of Botched!)

Somehow, ADR permitting, Beaches & Cream now sits on our plan. I am of course curious to see what it looks like after the recent extension but more than that I want a kitchen sink for brunch. Both are at least equally important.

Maybe I need to do more of this and employ the technique of positive thinking rather than moaning about stuff? We WILL go to WDW next March, there WILL be a working vaccine in place and we won’t need to wear masks and social distance and I WILL not put on a stone in two weeks due to massively overeating. I suspect I am being too aspirational with the last one of those.

I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

Till the next time…..

Being Right & Retro

In a very rare turn of events it appears that I made the right decision.

This week Virgin pushed back any possibility of flying to Orlando until October at the earliest. So now as I sit here with new flights already secured, updated plans made and park reservations in the bag, it does appear that making that decision a few weeks ago has saved me a considerable amount of stress and panic right around now.

I guess we would have now been waiting for refunds, rearrangements and all that jazz along with everybody else cancelled for our original dates. It may well be a one-off occasion that I made a right call, so please allow me to wallow in it.

I have to say that although the 1st of March is so far in the future I don’t think we can still be 100% sure that we’ll definitely be going then. That may sound mad, but in a country where new records are being set every day for infections and deaths are rising again, you have governors banning cities from enforcing mask-wearing in public.

This level of stupidity cannot be comprehended and it is this sort of muppetry that may see me stressed and panicked again in the new year trying to move stuff once more.

As you will have seen on Friday when I shared an old, yet recently rediscovered photo on Facebook, we found some old photos. Emily is getting a new bed and re-doing her bedroom so she is currently trying to make her room look a little less like one of those “hoarder houses” you see on the telly.

Having gone through the photos from the box she discovered deep under her bed, I’ll share a few more now. I’ll try to keep it to those of historical interest as long as I can remember what they were.

This is from, I think 1999. It is from our only visit to date to the Liberty Tree Tavern. Rebecca is two here if it is 1999. My Dad took us and my brother and his family to Florida on his maturing endowment, which is not a euphemism.

It’s terrible that I can’t be sure of the year with a lot of these. If there is one positive from my writing of trip reports in the years that followed these early trips it is that we will always know the exact date of things we are looking at.

I think this is 2001 and the first trip we did as a foursome. This would make the girls six and four respectively which I think looks right. We stayed at the All Star Sports, paying massively over the odds for a package deal. I knew no better at this early stage in my Disney development. This was the first trip I booked as up until that point I had been with my parents or had been taken by my Dad in 1999.

This is Mickey or Minnie’s house. Both of course now a thing of the past.

Again, I am guessing but I think this is 2001 again based on Rebecca’s size and dress. This, if you can’t work it out is in France in World Showcase. The hours we spent with the girls getting those masks done. Every minute of them an absolute pleasure.

Now, this one is a bit of a rare find. This must be 1999 and the brief but glorious thing that was Tapestry of Nations. For those too young to remember this was an outstanding parade type of thing that made its way around World Showcase before ROE. Forgive the photo. I had an old steam-powered camera and it was very hot and raining.

Again from 1999, and this is my brother’s eldest son, Jack, at the time around six I think. This was when paper maps were relevant and in the Animal Kingdom, we still needed one. The park hadn’t been open that long at the time.

Again, I’m guessing that this was 2001. It’s some bizarre stage show that I have little to no recall of and I certainly have no idea what it was called. It had all those characters in that anyone from the UK only has a passing knowledge of like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I have to say, I have not mourned the passing of this show in the way I did Wishes!

This looks like 2001 again. Although Rebecca looks small for four. Maybe it’s 1999? No, I think 2001. I honestly can’t remember. See, if you think writing trip reports is for OCD idiots with nothing better to do, then, of course, you are right, but they do serve a purpose.

This was outside those silver character caravans in what was MGM at the time, near Little Mermaid and what was One Man’s Dream.

This was definitely 1999. Rebecca is two here and looking very similar to a currently two-year-old Freddie. This was taken at Busch Gardens. On top of her stroller is one of two giant stuffed toys that were won that day on the boardwalk games. We somehow got them home and they still sit in my Mum and Dad’s house. When the girls were younger and slept over at Nana and Grandad’s they had to be moved out of the bedroom as they terrified them!

And finally 2003, the first trip report year. For that reason and the fact that I remember this like it was yesterday this is outside Rock n Rollercoaster and that is Rebecca with the untamable and unfathomable hair she had at the time.

We were waiting for Louise to finish her ride before heading to The Brown Derby for our ADR. Just as Louise emerged and we set off it started with torrential rain and we got absolutely soaked. We had to get the girls a sweatshirt each from the villain’s shop on the way so they wouldn’t freeze to death in the air con whilst eating. Rebecca’s look of happiness and joy is a strong reminder of how (almost) every minute of these trips are happy memories and things to cherish as we make new ones with the new people now in our lives.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I finally got all of our old videotapes from many trips converted to a digital format and we’ve been watching those again. There are hours and hours of unedited and largely tedious ( to anyone but us) footage, so I won’t bother you with those, but if time allows I may try to share some highlights if I can master the required technology to do so.

Until I can spend some time finding out how to do it properly here’s a little clip from 2001, recorded from laptop to phone so excuse the sound quality and wobbly camera work. There are about another ten hours of this stuff…..

Till the next time…….

Reigniting The Fires Of Anticipation

It’s taken a while but we’ve got to a Sunday where I have no trip rearranging drama to report. All was quiet on the holiday front this week.

So now I have to think of something to write about. I think I preferred it when I was in the midst of the re-planning maelstrom. Almost. This week it appears that the something to write about is me getting angry about American people. I suppose it makes a change from me getting angry about British politicians (see Twitter).

I have been watching with interest the bizarre juxtaposition of WDW re-opening and the state of Florida letting the disease run almost completely unchecked at the same time. When Universal announced they were re-opening in early June, I along with a lot of others I imagine thought that was early but I wondered if Disney would feel pressured to follow suit.

They did not, to their credit, despite reportedly losing a million dollars a day by staying shut. Instead, they took their time, (almost) built a completely new IT system to take park bookings and, looking at some of the pictures from cast member and AP previews, also did a not-insignificant amount of work to many of the attractions. I see the likes of Jungle Cruise has new screens to help keep parties separate and protected for example.

Credit to wdwnt.com for me stealing their photo

The safari at DAK also seems to have screens in place betwen guests.

I stole this from Lionel Dore’s Facebook post

I suspect WDW are playing the long game and assuming that things may never return fully to normal and having these extra ways to keep guests from breathing all over each other will generally be a good thing regardless of this particular disease.

It does appear that the recent catastrophic increase in cases in Florida and other states led by stupid people is now leading to fuller hospitals and more dead people. Nobody could have predicted this, right?

Side Glance GIF by Reactions | Gfycat

These graphs really are grim reading.

For a while, the narrative was that a different demographic were catching the disease. That demographic was stupid people who thought it was a hoax and a piece of cloth over their mouth was a bridge too far on what they were able to tolerate. Sure cases were rising faster than my anger at Brexit, but deaths were not, so it’s all good and we can go to the bars and lick some bar stools.

It does now appear that the lag between new cases and folks dying is over with Florida’s daily COVID deaths (the ones they are admitting to anyway) doubling over recent trends.

I guess the only slim pickings of comfort in those figures is that it is making the UK’s response to the pandemic look succesful, and that’s an impressive feat in itself.

This week those in charge in Florida voted against making masks in public places mandatory. Well, stupid is as stupid does as someone once said. This makes me sad and angry that this will both kill people and in less serious news, probably affect my upcoming holiday. I can be sanctimonious and shallow at the same time, it’s no trouble.

Away from me being judgemental about people thousands of miles away, along with the theme parks, things are opening up again all over the place here too. Whilst it doesn’t particularly affect me directly, barbers and hairdressers were among those businesses to begin trading again, and Rebecca managed to get Freddie booked in as he was, in her words, starting to look like a mushroom.

Yes, you are right, during lockdown he has become a teenager. Now that he is at nursery a few days a week it is apparent that he is roughly twice the size of the other two-year-olds there, so I am looking forward to riding every single coaster in Florida with him before too long, assuming the entire state hasn’t been wiped out by its own stupidity.

Of course, we are measuring him regularly to see what he will be able to ride. He’s currently 38 inches which will see him allowed on the likes of Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Smuggler’s Run, Slinky Dog Dash and Kali River Rapids. He has around six months to grow another two inches and be able to do stuff like Soarin’, Test Track and Big Thunder.

I have to say that all the kerfuffle and concern about our next trip has sort of stripped away the ability to look forward to it. It would help if the disease was at least under some sense of control over there I suppose, but hopefully now with things rearranged and settled, we can begin to reignite the fires of anticipation, which sounds like one of those straight to DVD movies they show on those Hallmark channels.

Till the next time…….