The King Of Wishful Thinking

Right, if you are busy today and want a summarised version of the next few hundred words in a handy gif, to save you the trouble of wading through them, here you go.

The Hangover GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Usually when it comes to writing these posts, I rock up the laptop at some point on a Sunday morning and spew out whatever word salad comes to mind. You can’t tell can you?

This week, with so much happening in the world of travel I thought I would get ahead of the game and jot some thoughts down during the week. Now, as I sit here on Sunday, most of those thoughts have been overtaken by events, so what follows is a mish mash of old and new news and it all leads to a mass jumble of confusion. Enjoy!

Things are changing quickly and this last week has seen significant news. The general mood still feels a bit, two steps forward and one step back, but, and this may shock you, as things stand right now, I am probably in a confident state of mind that we will be able to go on June 14th.

The key word is able. Whether we will or not is still slightly debateable, but I think if we can go it will be a case of…..

Me Leaving The Bar GIF - Scrubs AllAboard ChooChoo GIFs

Anyway, having suggested travel may be possible, allow me now to argue the case, proving that I really do know nothing.

Why do I now think we will be allowed to fly by mid-June? Well, as expected Johnson’s “update” on international travel last Monday was another masterclass in a lack of detail and information. However, and bear with me as this is a bit of a stretch, my first step in the “convince myself we will get a holiday trail” was this.

Three times in his ramble he made a very obvious point of saying something like, “I see nothing in the data to make us deviate from the roadmap”. With this mind, and with the 17th of May being outlined as the date from which international travel may be possible, politically he needs to have some travel start on that date. If we know one thing it is that his actions are always driven by his own needs and desires so this encourages me a little.

The traffic light system has since been announced but with little detail (the story of the pandemic so far for this shower in power) but what is clear is that the destination country needs to be green and travellers need to tested negative before they can travel.

So assuming some travel is to be allowed on that date, which countries could be green if not the US? Only Israel and the UK have vaccination rates and improving stats similar to the US and there have been rumours about a mid-May opening of borders by Biden for a while. I suspect this has already been discussed and negotiated and assuming the data does not change significantly in the meantime I would guess that the US will be technically and legally do-able on May 17th.

Airlines do seem to be planning for travel to resume, as my reading between the lines (or reading into things what I want to) of their activity and tweets from travel industry folks indicates. One such pundit confirmed a while ago that one key US airline plans to have all its fleet operational by the end of May including its long haul jumbos.

He also seems very confident that some travel to a growing number of “green” countries will be confirmed for May 17th.

More recently he is more bullish.

If you want to follow him he is https://twitter.com/PPaulCharles

So all those factors and thoughts led us this week to begin facing the decision of what we should do. We know from my chat with Virgin that if travel is permitted, our options are very limited. Indeed all we can do is change the dates, paying all the fees and price differences (and My God the prices are high for late summer/early 2022) if we do not want to go in June.

One other small factor is our Vero booking, made with DVC points via a broker. If we can travel and don’t, it is very likely we will just lose that cash. It’s not the end of the world, but I’d rather not if we can help it.

As we all chatted about this, watching the snow tumbling in April, freezing our arses off, I suspect the lack of any sun or holiday since September 2019 really started to hit home and despite us all dreading the prospect of masks everywhere, and knowing that going on holiday would mean the most serious dieting effort ever known to man, we started to come up with ways to convince ourselves that it might be OK.

Option 1 would be to go and not do any parks. Now, that looked favourite at the start of the week, and it would be OK. Sun, food and not being at work or in lockdown all sound pretty good but it would be tough to know the parks are “right there” and we can’t go to them.

Then, out of the blue, two significant pieces of news came out. Firstly (and I caveat all this with it being almost certainly just wishful thinking) the Mayor of Orange County suggested in an interview that he thought it would be possible to look to reduce or remove the mask mandate as they got to 50% vaccination rates. This, he said, should be possible by June or July. Just too late for us possibly, but a move in the right direction nonetheless. I did think that whatever he might do, Disney would ignore it and stick to their policy of masks being enforced until 2022, but then, a bombshell. An out of the blue change to WDW mask policy, that guests can remove masks for photos. A small change of course, but the first sign that things are getting better.

A cynic may just think that they want to flog more Memory Makers of course, but I read that they are also in the process of rehiring a large number of cast members which also suggests they are planning to open more stuff and increase capacity for the summer, and maybe that is because they are hoping for the return of international visitors. Added to that Disney also announced a large programme of extended park hours through to mid June. So I do think they are expecting international guests to return and are gearing up for that.

This gives a glimmer of hope that within the next two months they could move again on masks. Perhaps only mandating them indoors or for adults only. Who knows? Certainly not me. Baby steps and each one is welcome.

So assuming my guess is correct and travel is allowed. What hoops will we need to jump through? Some travel experts had been predicting that everyone, vaccine or not, will need to do a full blown test both ways (not just the lateral flow things that the government are happy to trust a 12 year old to do themselves to prove schools are safe) and this could add a big chunk to the costs. This seemed to be confirmed by the government later in the week, but there is still, just for a novelty factor, a lack of clarity, as far as I can make out anyway, about which tests may be needed and that will massively impact the costs.

So with all this going on, I think, right now we are at the collective head space of thinking that if we are allowed to go, we will (despite the testing hoops potentially being onerous and costly). On balance, the cost of any tests is less than the costs and losses of moving the trip to new dates.

We would even try the parks. Freddie is being introduced to masks, gently and in small doses, just to get him familiar, but we would make of it what we could and if anyone is uncomfortable we would retreat from the parks and do something else. With nine weeks still to go till we travel we suspect other things will change, and hopefully improve in that time.

On that note, another area of slight concern is the flight. Current Virgin policy is masks for everyone over two. This seems to me that it may change too in the coming weeks. Why? (Inserts usual caveat of wishful thinking and not having a clue what will happen).

Well, if leisure travel is allowed on May 17th, to even get on the plane you need to be in possession of a negative test and of course large numbers of customers will be vaccinated. You have to de-mask to eat and drink anyway (that is maybe 25% of the flight?) and Virgin reassure their passengers that…

“You can breathe easy with our onboard HEPA filters, which use a vertical airflow and extract more than 99.999% of particles from the air, including bacteria and viruses.”

Now, if everyone has tested negative and/or is vaccinated and with the above filters in mind, why insist on masks for just 75% of the flight? I know that I know nothing. I am no expert, but perhaps with May 17th and new travel rules they may change that?” Who knows? I’m old enough to remember there being smoking sections on a plane with a curtain being the only thing stopping the clouds of smoke forcing their way into the non-smoking section!

In the end, I suspect our desperation for some sun, fun and food may see us overcome the large number of worries and obstacles we still see. We will make the call when we have all the information I guess. The complexities and mess around getting on a plane may just be too onerous but we can only wait to see what is announced.

We recognise that this trip, if it happens, will come with challenges –

  1. It will be hot – Having been in August for decades, we know and like hot. Masks may make it harder, but it’s not like we are first timers. We can do less parks if we need to.
  2. It will be busy – I refer you to point 1.
  3. It won’t be the full experience with no fireworks and shows – Agreed. Although let’s see what happens between now and then, but we’ve seen them before and we’ll see them again.

The thing playing on my mind most right now is that I am at this stage lacking all the details I crave about the testing requirements and the logistics of it all. It seems unavoidable that we will need to do a test 48 hours before leaving the UK and if I understand it correctly, do the same 48 hours before leaving the US. If that is the case I really hope that the likes of Virgin will partner with some US tester and offer appointments somewhere (maybe Disney Springs like their luggage drop) where their passengers can get their tests. Otherwise there will be lots of Brits googling testing providers in Florida and trying to source their own.

In truth, I hope the moans of the travel industry and the clamour to allow lateral flow tests instead of the full blown and costly PCR test come to fruition before the 14th of June as that would just make things a lot easier. A country being “green” by definition means it has low COVID rates and no real variant concerns and the reasoning for a PCR test is to track new variants. By next year of course it will be full on vaccine passports I think and these tests may not be required. Yes, of course I am simultaneously already planning next year’s trip. I don’t know why anyone might be shocked by that!

Having been all bullish up to now, of course the glass half full part of my brain has something to say about that and it needs to add some balance. As we open up more from next week and again in May, our case numbers will inevitably rise. It will be critical to not see deaths and hospitalisations also rise for all and any travel plans to be potentially scuppered. Having the US accept UK visitors, regardless of our own government’s policy of course is key and whilst they are delivering incredible numbers in terms of jabs into arms, the vast, diverse and in some cases stupid nature of the population means anything could yet happen there and their numbers could of course still worsen.

Looking at Florida’s numbers, taking into account the lunacy seen over Spring Break and knowing that the state has been fully open for some time now, their case rates are steady, if not rising a little. At this point their death rate is actually falling, but it could just be that the lag between new cases turning into deaths means that will come or, of course it means the vaccine is doing its job.

Since when did statistical analysis become part of holiday planning? I probably need to get out more, but can’t yet.

If, in the end, all my stabs in the dark do not come to pass and it turns out we cannot fly on June 14th then I think plan B is to move the whole thing to either later in the year, if we can find flights that do not double the amount we have already paid, or into 2022.

It all remains a mess, but as we edge closer to our booking’s date, it is forcing our hand to at least decide what we might do in each scenario. The people most pleased about all this coming to end one way or another will be you dear readers.

Much like Johnson and his infamous writing of two articles on either side of the Remain or Leave debate, I could easily have published a post today outlining why travel to the US for a holiday in June is less likely than flying to the moon, but I chose to be positive and I will almost certainly be proved very wrong.

By next week everything may have changed again, and that will only mean more of this guff for you to read. Sorry.

Till the next time…….

How To Sweep Her Off Her Feet

Happy Easter all. This may be a brief one as I have a few things to get done today.

So let’s address last week’s cliff hanger regarding Louise’s present. I appreciate cliff hanger may be a little strong as I doubt anybody lost sleep, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It didn’t arrive until Tuesday but when it did it was received very well.

Now, having been married for a long time now I am more than aware that you should never, ever, buy domestic appliances for your wife on her birthday. However, as an exception that proves the rule, this year I did and I lived to tell the tale.

So what was it? Meet Trevor, our new robot hoover.

To understand why I broke the unbreakable law of not buying your wife a hoover for her birthday, we have to go back to just after we moved in and Louise suggested, several times, that we should get one as it would be ideal to keep our kitchen floor clean without us having to hoover every day manually.

So after all that kerfuffle, late it might have been, but it did the trick.

On Monday of last week, not able to wait any longer to do something about the holiday, I contacted Virgin. I don’t know if I was just lucky or if they have finally managed to sort out their wait times over 12 months into the pandemic, but my message was answered very quickly.

I just wanted to assess my options really. Of course, as right now our flight on the 14th of June is running, they are limited. I can cancel and get about £7.50 refunded to me or as I have now had my two free changes, if we move it again, it will incur change fees and price differences. I tried new dates in January. That resulted in me having to pay the price I had already paid again unless we dropped Premium on the way back in which case it was just £30 each to move it.

I didn’t, which was an amazing show of self-restraint for me as I need to let things play out a bit yet. Who knows if masks will be gone even by January anyway.

We have been chatting about our options and a lot depends on what is decided for May 17th by the governments involved. It is being suggested that the US may be on a “green list” by May 17th allowing travel, probably with proof of vaccine or a negative test going out and coming back in for those not yet able to get one. If so, of course our options with Virgin come down to either going or moving it to a set of dates like January where the financial pain of doing so is not too high.

We aren’t too keen to go in June I have to say. As amazing as that sounds, it would no doubt entail masks for the nine hour flight and at the airports. We probably wouldn’t do the parks for that reason too and so it would be a chance to relax, eat, recharge and just be there. I’m sure we’d enjoy that but it isn’t the holiday we have planned.

If we move, then when do we move it to? Masks may be a thing at WDW for a long time yet. Maybe January would be more tolerable in the cooler temperatures, but who knows if the winter might bring a rise in COVID rates and new restrictions anyway.

All the while, what really upsets me is the time that is passing and the lost opportunities to have Freddie experience what we have all known and loved for so long. It’s a mess really.

I guess there is one last option of, if allowed, going in June, doing the parks, sucking up the mask thing and doing the best we can. The worst that could happen is that the parks become no fun and we end up only doing them a little bit and wasting the money on our park tickets. Also, with the lack of shows, fireworks and all that jazz, Freddie’s memories of the first trip he will probably remember would be a shadow of what they should be.

Sigh.

We may know more tomorrow as the PM is due to give another of his clear, concise and enjoyable briefings and it is rumoured to cover international travel. The US did 4.1 million vaccines yesterday which is just mind blowing. It is amazing what can be done when you don’t have an idiot in charge.

Who knew that going on holiday could ever be so hard?

OK, I did warn this may be brief. I can feel the weight of my outstanding chores on my shoulders so I need to crack on. More unhelpful waffle about US travel options next week no doubt.

Till the next time……

Thinking and Perkins

If you thought last week’s post was a hot mess of confusion with absolutely no value, help or conclusions on when holidays may happen, you’d be right, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The only thing I am more sure of seven days later, is that my burning desire to be there is multiplying rapidly.

My twitter feed is a stream of contradictory thoughts and predictions which, tweet by tweet, see me swinging from “Where are the suitcases, I’m gonna pack” to “I’m burning my passport as nobody will ever travel internationally for leisure ever again”.

I still don’t think the 14th of June will happen though.

A week on post vaccination and I have seen no side effects beyond an arm that isn’t really sore, it just feels like I need to scratch it. If that isn’t a metaphor for my desire to be travelling to WDW I don’t know what is. I have been scratching that itch since 1980.

So with the unchangeable and unstoppable passing of time, Easter is nearly up on us and the clocks have gone forward, robbing us of an hour in bed, but delivering on the promise of lighter nights and maybe a summer. For some reason since moving in here I have been awake before 7am every day. I really hope that stops soon.

With those significant changes and events, let’s hope that my longed for step change in our collective fortunes comes soon after. Restrictions start to be lifted, more people get more jabs and hospital and death rates become something we don’t need to be looking at graphs of every day.

With the US going gangbusters on the vaccine, surely at some point this summer, Brits will be eating themselves to death in an Applebees or an Olive Garden in Orlando as God intended. One thing I need to share with you, linked to the topic of eating yourself to death, is a strange fascination I have developed for an email I get every day.

On our last trip we visited Perkins. It was an unplanned breakfast and was glorious. By using their free Wifi they had gained my email address and I figured getting the odd email was a fair price for using their internet. Well, I love it. I look forward to it every day, no doubt driven by my sad longing to be anywhere in Florida, but these emails are great and demonstrate the incredible value and quality you can get in these “lower end” eateries should you want or need to. Look at what they send me….

If $20 gets you all that I could be dead within a week. Honestly, whether you ever intend to eat there or not, sign up to their emails. It’s like a ray of sunshine into your inbox, but it will make you hungry.

On the subject of my waistline let us all hope for the existence of a definite trip soon. Lockdown has made it clear to me that the only things preventing me from appearing on My 600lb Life have been having to go into the office for work and knowing I had to keep my weight down in preparation for a WDW holiday. Without either, things are not good in the scales department right now and I need some form of carrot and stick to help me, although neither of those sound very tasty.

With my employer announcing a “hybrid” working policy this week, which is basically don’t take the piss and work from home all the time but broadly do what you want, I fear it may only be a holiday that is going to save me from buying a whole new set of clothes with size tags that begin with multiple X’s.

Away from Florida, and believe me I am aware that I am every single day, today is Louise’s birthday. Hopefully it will be the last family birthday where we can’t do what we want with who we want as it’s getting a bit tiresome now. I am not one to leave the buying of birthday gifts to the last minute, as you may imagine, but today I have been unable to give Louise hers. Why you ask?

Well, I ordered it in plenty of time. It is a present from myself, Emily and Rebecca and Tom so I had collective responsibility to get it here on time. It was due to arrive last Monday and after the time slot for delivery changing all day, just after 8pm I had a message that delivery was attempted at 8.01 and failed. Well, we were in. Where else can we go? A further attempt was scheduled for the day after.

This time it did arrive and luckily and unusually, before wrapping the thing I opened the packaging to have a look. Inside were two large boxes of washing powder. How lucky is Louise, I hear you cry. Well, this year as a change, I had not ordered her domestic cleaning products and I was shocked to see that had been sent. Clearly, some thieving rat had clocked what was in the box, had it away and swapped the contents.

I contacted the seller, and was given a returns label and a speedy refund. I re-ordered. When the delivery of that item followed the same pattern as the first, missing its original day and then arriving the day after, with obvious resealing having happened, I knew what I would find in the box. As an added surprise, this time it was washing powder and dog food.

Another return was arranged and it sits awaiting collection as did the last.

In the end, I have ordered another from a totally different company, but as this had taken us up until 6.30pm on Friday, it could not get here quickly enough and it may be Monday or Tuesday when it does. What a mess.

I can’t tell you what the thing is yet of course, as Louise doesn’t know, but it turns out they are more sought after than class A drugs. Let’s hope Louise actually likes the thing when it arrives.

Right, I am off to go and stare at Twitter a bit more and endure the rollercoaster of emotions caused by the varying rumours and predictions of when folks can travel for fun again.

Till the next time……

My Little Prick

Sure, I may have missed out on my long-awaited 50th birthday WDW trip due to a deadly virus but now that I am that old, on Friday I was able to have the jab that will hopefully prevent me from dying from it and also maybe help prevent me passing it on to someone else who might.

The experience was quick and I hardly noticed. If that isn’t a perfect sentence for a blog post with this title I don’t know what is.

My arm is a little bit sore and I felt extra tired yesterday but that may just have been the fact that I didn’t sleep very much on Friday night due to a bout of heartburn brought on by my own gluttony.

By the 5th of June, I will have had both shots and a little while after that will benefit from the full effects. Ironically, that would make me holiday-ready for our current date of the 14th of June, but my expectation of that trip going ahead is very low currently. This is based entirely on WDW’s mask policy, to be honest, as each day seems to hint that the US might be getting its act together now the orange blancmange isn’t in the White House.

Just this week, Fauci hinted that masks and social distancing might be relaxed around the 4th of July, and then Biden was said to be considering relaxing travel restrictions by mid-May. Whilst I am delighted to see the US vaccinate literally millions of people every day I still think I’ll be rearranging stuff again.

To highlight the constant conflicting thoughts as we all try to interpret the signs and signals, in the same week, a UK government minister was talking to the press and telling them that any chance of summer holidays abroad this year was unlikely. Now, his lips were moving at the time, and if, as he said, they were concerned about new variants being brought back to the UK by returning holidaymakers it does make you wonder why then it took them twelve months of the pandemic to introduce proper controls on who was entering the country and where they went. Someone more cynical than me may also think that they want everyone to spend their pent up holiday cash in the UK this year rather than let Johnny Foreigner have it.

So new dates and more rearranging will probably be needed. But rearranging to when? It’s a tricky one this, as you may have gathered by now that I like to have things sorted and if I could, I would be battling with call centres already, trying to move everything for the third time (is it the third? I’ve lost count) but until we know when masks will no longer be required at the parks, I don’t think I can.

I would imagine that the travel companies current approach of “Yes, book something, book anything, and you can change it for free a million times if Covid affects it” will very quickly revert to “You want to add a full stop to your booking? Well, that will be £6000 please,” once things start to return to some form of normality, so I imagine this next change will need to be the last.

The challenge will come if the US does allow us in by mid-May, and then the UK also allow international travel on their May 17th timeline (to the US, not Europe I expect, as they seem to be struggling with a potential 3rd wave) but the mask policy is still in place in the parks. We just don’t want to have to battle with Freddie about wearing a mask as he will not understand or tolerate it for that length of time. Hopefully, we will still be allowed to shift the thing without enormous penalty.

One outsider in this list of options is, should we able to travel in June, but masks still be required, then we could still go, skip the parks and just have some time in the sun, eating to life threatening levels and having some sort of holiday at least.

Ideally, we’d like to go this September. Well, no, ideally we’d like to go asap and not have to wear a mask, but we are where we are. Frankly, we’ve waited long enough now and I have September in my head as probably the earliest WDW and Universal may change their mask policies. Why? Well, by then everyone who wants a vaccine here and there will have had one, case numbers and deaths should be low due to that and for Disney, they will be about to start the 50th celebrations for Magic Kingdom and that has to be a big opportunity for them to claw back some of the cash the pandemic has cost them.

Conversely, they may be thinking that they definitely need to keep masks in place for a long time, as that may allow them to expand capacity and still be seen to be being careful with their guest’s health. I guess what they cannot do is welcome in “normal” capacity crowds for the 50th celebrations and abandon social distancing and masks at the same time.

My ability to argue with myself, on both sides of the debate is impressive.

Of course, all this is my very uneducated guess and I don’t trust myself enough to pick up the holiday and move it anywhere just yet. I can only do that once we know of course. So what happens if we get to a few weeks before our current dates and there is still no news on masks? I don’t know.

Assuming we are allowed to, without huge cost or penalty, our only option would be to move it to early 2022. The current Disney mask policy is that they will be required for all of 2021, so that would seem to be the only vaguely definite way to be sure. I’d say early March would be our dates of choice.

There are a lot of moving parts to all this and it is, as ever, a confusing mess. Basically, I have not one clue what to do or when to do it. But to quote the very wise Joey Tribbiani…

I Wanna Go GIFs | Tenor

See how quickly my blogging returns to holidays after months of ramming our house move down your necks? Like childbirth, it is now seemingly forgotten. It isn’t of course. We are still learning how to live in a new place. We had some guttering replaced yesterday at a moderate expense, and the list of repairs needed is a modestly long one, but don’t think we’re not glad we made the move. It’s lovely here.

We are still missing some curtains and our couch, both of which have worse lead times than our Sky installation and we’ll feel better once those are here. Sky you say? Well, after exchanging several shit-o-grams with them I eventually got a call from a nice Scottish lady from their “Shit-o-gram handling department”.

To cut that long story short I finished the call with about 75 apologies and some compensation for them cancelling my install on the day, leading to an almost three-week wait for a new date. That was only fair as had I done that, I would have been charged for doing so. The engineer is due this afternoon, so fingers crossed for no more cock-ups and the ability to watch football on something other than my laptop.

So with little or no respite from my “this house move is stressing me out” season, you have been plunged directly into the “this bloody holiday planning is stressing me out” season. With the vaccine now inside of me and about 25 million others in the UK then as D:ream once said, things can only get better, right?

I don’t know when we’ll get to go back to WDW but I know for sure that we are going to make the absolute best of it and never take another trip for granted ever again.

Till the next time…….

Getting Seckled

A week can feel like a lifetime on occasion, and over the last week, it does feel that a lot has happened and a lot has been done. From the chaos of last Friday, every day has seen significant improvement and it has certainly been eventful.

We suffered an 8-hour power cut last Monday. It affected the whole surrounding area and we sat in the cold for a long time cursing the power that didn’t be stopping us from getting stuff done. We’ve also learnt a lot too. One of the main lessons was that as pleased as we were to discover that the previous resident has invested in top-notch kitchen gear, those fancy Neff induction hobs are no good to you unless you have the correct pans. We did not, and after a lot of frustration and swearing, Tom discovered via his brother, who also moved into a house with one of these, that we needed to invest in a new set of pans. Had we known before moving in, that would of course have put an end to the deal of buying the house in the first place!

It is true to say that the previous resident liked a gadget. It has been a week of figuring out remote controls (including one that does the kitchen lights…I kid you not) and swearing about why everything needs to be so complicated, but we’re getting there now.

I have constructed my office and despite it being the smallest room in the house it contains all the essentials for work, a 55″ TV, my PlayStation and an exercise bike so that I have somewhere to hang my clothes. it is also of course festooned with Disney knick-knacks and photos. I have, in the words of Louis Walsh, made it my own.

We have taken endless deliveries, both of big-ticket items like a new washer and dryer and new ridiculously large TV for the lounge as well as a cabinet thing to sit it on alongside multiple Amazon deliveries of bits and bobs we have discovered we now need.

We’ve already painted one room that was inexplicably orange and Emily is halfway through painting hers too. We only have about half a dozen boxes to unpack now, and all of this of course has been peppered with tip runs to discard the cardboard mountains we have created.

I went back to work on Wednesday. That long commute down the landing to my new office was glorious, but work was busy and stressful but needs must as the mortgage won’t pay itself.

On Wednesday we were due to have Sky installed. We’ve been waiting for a long time to ditch Virgin and this move was our chance. Well, frying pans and fire seem to be all the rage. Our install was booked weeks ago, for Wednesday between 1pm and 5pm. The chap rolled up at 4.20pm and told us he had only just been given the job, and he finishes at 5.30pm and he had a maternity appointment with his wife that evening. Having enjoyed his life story, I explained that we’d booked this weeks ago and we needed the install doing. He called his boss, who told him to survey the job to see how long it might take. It may amaze you to discover that he estimated it would take just long enough that he didn’t have time to do it.

I was not happy and told him as much. He assured me a new appointment would be arranged for the next few days. Long story short, the next installation slot isn’t available until the 21st of March and I am currently in a robust conversation with Sky’s complaints department. Alas, they are the only horse in town for us if we want TV up here so I cannot, as I wanted to, tell them to show their dish somewhere unpleasant. I yearn for companies who are competent. Sigh.

The dogs have settled in very well. They love the field at the back of the house and the fact that they now get to have the run of the place as the layout means we have no way to keep them downstairs at night. We have awoken during the night to Oli’s arse on multiple occasions.

All in all, we’re loving it. The idea that we were buying a house where nothing would need doing has been rubbished of course. In the ten minutes you wander around a place before deciding to buy it you are never going to spot that bit of dodgy guttering or a conservatory window that needs some attention, but nonetheless, it’s what we wanted and more.

I said I would share some photos. I’m being a bit lazy by just pinching some that Louise posted to Facebook earlier in the week, but here is one I took when I was out with the dogs earlier. By the way, the weather has been shocking since we moved in. We’ve had gales, hail and sideways rain non-stop. I was not aware that we had moved to a whole new climate. You can feel how cold it was on the field in this photo.

You can just see the top of our conservatory behind the goalposts. We are hunkered down into the hill.

Freddie’s playroom
Lounge
Kitchen
Kitchen again

We’re still missing some curtains here and there and our new couch has been delayed to the end of March but you get the idea. So enough not so humble bragging. With things settling down with the house and no longer having the constant looming cloud of the move on my mind, thoughts are turning to the holiday of course.

As it stands the dates in the government’s plans don’t change things soon enough for us but it all comes down to when the parks remove the need for masks for us. There is no way Freddie will or can wear one all day, so until that is lifted we are a bit scuppered.

Whilst thinking about alternative dates, and the time is fast approaching when I will make a change, I am hanging fire a little as the vaccines are being rolled out at an increasing pace, especially in the US so there is a small part of me that thinks/hopes this summer may see travel permitted and masks no longer needed in the parks. Then I catch myself and tell me not to be so stupid. I think I have been spectacularly wrong with every prediction so far! WDW are risk-averse and have already said that policy will remain for all of 2021 so I expect that to be the case.

Some day, we will return to WDW. Some day.

Before I leave you to your Sundays, let me wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Mum and to all those who do “Mum” stuff. Let’s hope this is the last such day where we can’t all be together and do normal stuff.

Till the next time……

Don’t Stop Moving

After all these months of pain, stress, worry, frustration, heartburn and tedious moaning on my blog, we were fnally scheduled to move last Friday…………….and it didn’t fecking happen.

Yep, we have seldom suffered a week so stressful, frustrating and infuriating. All of the issues sat with our buyer’s buyer, which made things harder as we were always just getting Chinese whispers via our estate agent. The story seemed to change with every update, and we went several days with seemingly no communication at all coming from what appears to be the shittest legal conveyancing firm on the planet. For most of the week, it was said that the delay/lack of confirmation was all down to the lender and whether they could release the funds in time. Now, looking back, I would struggle to articulate all that happened and the circumstances which led to us still being sat in our old house.

As we approached the middle of the week we still didn’t know whether we were moving on Friday. We assumed not, but nobody could get, so it appeared, a definitive answer from the buyer at the bottom of our chain.

At some point in the week, I forget when exactly, our estate agent rang with the first proper update. It turned out that when the 26th of February was proposed and everyone said they were ready, the first time buyer at the bottom declared that they were without confirming that with either their estate agent or solicitor who, maybe, could have told them that they were not ready. So naïve buyers, with bobbins estate agents and solicitors, made for a perfect storm of incompetence and ultimately a disappointment.

If anyone still cares, it took until Wednesday for them to share what the actual issue was. Let me regale you with the inane triviality of what has delayed four house moves.

The house being sold by our buyer apparently had a clause in the lease that said that the ground rent can be renegotiated every 25 years for the first 100 years. It’s a relatively new house so that could happen four times in total. The lender wanted an indemnity policy from the seller, (our buyer) to cover the “risk” that the ground rent could be raised by such an amount that the buyer would then not be able to afford to repay their mortgage. As unlikely a scenario as that may be, why was this not addressed in all the weeks and months that we have all been sat waiting for legal folks to do legal things? When it was raised, it was resolved in less than 24 hours. How we laughed.

So with that done, on Thursday, I think, we had a call from our solicitor telling us that our buyer’s solicitor had contacted her to say everything was now in place. That double proactivity astounded me. Even now just a few days later I can’t really make sense of the sequence of events if I am honest. Life is so busy at the minute my arse and elbow are unacquainted, but at some point, on Thursday or Friday, all parts of the chain agreed that the 5th of March was the new date. It takes 5 days for lenders to send money apparently so that was the soonest safest date to choose. It’s funny how I can send money immediately to anyone just using my iPhone but there you go.

It has been one of the most unpleasant and stressful weeks we have ever known. That will sound over dramatic and even now looking back on it, I wonder how we felt like that, but buried deep in the eye of the storm, it felt like the world was ending.

Still, at least that delayed broadband order I moaned about last week won’t matter as by the time we get in that should all be working. Also, months ago we ordered a new sofa for the lounge thinking that we’d be in the new house for ages before it was ready on the 8th of March. So this new date timed perfectly to have that delivered just a couple of days after we moved in. That was of course until we had a call from the furniture place on Friday, a few hours after getting our new date, saying that our new sofa was delayed till the end of March, because of Brexit. If you follow me on Twitter you may have got a hint that I have some reservations about the sunlit uplands of Brexit, so this piece of news delighted me more than Farage’s glee at another dinghy being sighted off the English coast.

We have lots of luck, but most of it is bad.

With my head spinning from all of the above, plus a really busy/stressful time at work for both Louise and me, somehow, I managed to squeeze in a couple of thoughts about our holiday. It’s a big deal to me at all times so this won’t be too shocking. I think it was last week that the incompetent haystack in Number 10 made some announcements about lifting restrictions that would be data-driven not date driven. He then followed that sentence by announcing a load of dates that everyone has now taken as gospel.

Somewhere in that mess of information was a date of June 21st when “everything goes back to normal” and all restrictions are lifted. This is great of course, were it to happen. However, even if the UK alone could determine that international travel would start again then, that is sadly a little late for us, with our June 14th departure date. Add to that, Disney saying that masks will be needed for all of 2021 and that is the death knell for our trip I think. Masks would be tough for us all in the June heat, but Freddie at three years old, would not understand why he needed one and the battle to have him wear one would very likely be a major issue on the whole trip.

So I’m doing nothing just yet, mainly as flight prices aren’t available for the dates in 2022 I might want, but I have resigned myself to having to pick up and move the whole thing again, or if that proves too hard just cancel and book again when the time is right. Of course, there could be some miracle where the US keeps doing vaccines at 2.5m a day (yep, that was yesterday’s figure) and things get so much better that Disney decides they can lift mask-wearing…..and we may be able to go later in summer/autumn, but I have very low to no hopes of that happening if I am honest.

Let us hope that our house move finally happening, spring starting to be visible on the horizon and the continued success of the vaccination programme all signal a change in our lives and fortunes and a return to some form of normality so that I can once again spend every penny of our disposable income on holidays.

If nothing else it may make your Sundays a little more bearable. Having been through this whole moving thing the obvious and only advice I can offer is, don’t.

Till the next time……

Conveying Stress

I am undertaking some rest and recuperation this weekend. For the past few weeks, every weekend has been a whirl of packing and sorting stuff out, but I have decided, no, have been forced, to not do that this week, as to be frank, I’m bloody knackered.

No doubt that is a build-up of month’s of angst and stress but last week especially was a busy one. My own job was particularly hectic, but I was also trying my hand at some DIY conveyancing.

Here is a representation of last week, with me being portrayed by somebody with hair and a normal BMI.

As our solicitor, and as I discovered, our seller’s too, seemed disinclined to have a go at the stuff they are qualified in and paid well for, things were taken into my own hands. I can’t recount the full set of events, but it started with a strongly worded email to all concerned parties on Monday (nobody answers their phone or calls back) and it ended with myself and the seller, via their estate agent, directly discussing what was outstanding and the best way forward.

In a nutshell, there are about six outstanding queries on our purchase, mostly relating to the quirky and often changed nature of the house and all its conversions and extensions over the years. The solicitors involved were playing a never-ending game of email tennis, which when I finally wrestled a copy of the email chain from my solicitor, seemed to contain lots of referring each other to other emails dated blah, blah, blah and not a great deal of effort to actually get any of the issues addressed.

So I took it upon myself to reach out to the seller and ask him to try to get his solicitor to do something….anything…..much as I was trying to do with mine. Via their estate agent, an email exchange happened, and rightly or wrongly I shared with him the outstanding issues and asked if he could help get this sale done so he can pocket all of our money.

To his credit, he quickly agreed to cover any outstanding bits of paperwork that could not be provided with an indemnity policy, much as we have done to our buyer for works done to our house that we have no paperwork for and gave his solicitor a kick up the arse. Last I heard late on Thursday was that he had approved the draft policy provided to him and told them to get on with it. I am led to believe that this is now with our solicitor but of course, any form of proactive update from them is clearly not in the package I am paying for, and I shall have to wait until my third email chaser next week to get a half-formed update. There was no point in trying to get any such update on Friday as she has long since made it clear that Fridays are a day when she has more important stuff to do.

So I do not know if this covers all outstanding queries but it will sort the majority. The coming few days may see my solicitor do something other than ignoring my calls and emails.

I think the stress and frustration of all that hit me on Saturday morning when my body untensed after such a busy week, both in the job for which I get paid and the one I am doing despite paying someone else to do, so I woke feeling like rubbish. I declared the weekend a write off and that I wouldn’t be doing anything of any note.

Indeed, the day’s only achievements were eating three-quarters of a pack of Rich Tea and having two poos. A red-letter day indeed. The evening, as nearly all of them are now, was spent binge-watching something. Our current set of things on the go are –

Servant (on Apple TV)

The entire Marvel film back catalogue on Disney + (to be fair we only started that journey last week by watching Captain America, so I don’t know how committed we are to that).

Wandavision

Celebrity Game Face

The latter is our newest form of vegetation and is a new discovery tucked away on the channel E. We seldom watch this channel as it normally features too many Kardashians or reality shows about WWE wrestlers that we don’t know. However, we stumbled upon Kevin Hart’s Celebrity Game Face. It’s silly, pointless and at times hilarious and just what you need when you’ve been trying to move house for six months and still don’t have a clue when it might happen. Give it a go if you want to turn your brain off and have a chuckle.

Of course, Rebecca and Tom’s move did not happen last week as they were promised. Their seller had the nerve to find himself in hospital, which rendered him unable to sign things and so their date has been put back to next Friday. It’s almost as if moving house is an absolute horror show that you should never, ever do.

Someone commented last week that I didn’t even mention our holiday. It’s a sign of how full my mind is of houses, solicitor inertia and other such bollocks and I know the entire UK Disney community uses this blog as some sort of bell-wether or canary in the coal mine for their entire planning strategy, so here’s my current take.

My current forecast of the chances of us being in WDW in June is slim to none. I can’t back that up with any firm stats or evidence and as such I have been invited to take up a position in cabinet, but it’s just a feeling. Now, I know that my overall mood right now is one of stress and frustration, so I may not be in the best place to make that judgement, but it just feels too soon….again.

Being so tired and emotional I also feel that even if borders are open, the thought of wearing masks, especially for Freddie, also appears to be dragging me down a bit. Not that we will ever be back to the normal we thought we had pre-Covid, but I think it will be Summer 2022 before things like social distancing and masks have a chance of being removed by the risk-averse Disney parks.

As I said, I’m tired and emotional. For that reason, I am properly missing our holidays right now. The juxtaposition of seeing my trio of vloggers in the WDW parks whilst we have to stay in our houses wrapped in cling film isn’t helping.

Who knows. By the spring, international travel may be allowed with a vaccine or a negative test and we may be able to make the best of the experience despite the masks and at least get some sun, good food and a change of scenery in mid-June. If we can’t, then I guess the next obvious set of dates would be our usual very late August time of year, but I have to say, sacking it all off and waiting for 2022 is also a very real consideration. There are only so many times you can book one holiday.

So there you go. A post where you can almost see my tiredness and stress hanging off every word. Luckily, everything that is contributing to that will continue at a pace for a while so buckle yourselves in for the next few weeks. How frequently I will update you on the poo count is, at this stage, unknown.

Till the next time……

Positivity Payback

Like some sort of legendary mythical siren, calling sailors onto the rocks, my positivity packed post last week seems to have summoned the combined forces of negativity and doom onto our shores.

I apologise and promise to just piss and moan every week from here on in.

I don’t know if it is more a symptom of where my head is, but this week, I have just sensed a collective groan and downturn in the mental health of the entire country. I’ve seen social media posts from friends expressing despair, downheartedness and downright depression. I don’t know specifically what it is, but the mood seems to have slumped.

Yes, we are rolling out the first jab at an impressive speed, but I think there have been a good few signals that this isn’t a silver bullet that will deliver us relief as soon as we would like. The government briefings have continued to be a mess of blaming everyone else and moving the goalposts and it has led, I think, to a dreary realisation that as much as there may light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is very, very, very, very long.

My younger foolish self, all that time ago last week, was fairly upbeat about the prospect of international travel by the late spring or summer. Whether I am just drinking the kool-aid and reacting to the downbeat and cautionary messaging from those in charge to make us all realise this is far from over, but now, being much older and wiser, a full seven days later, I am much less optimistic and I have to say I am now in the mind that we will need to rearrange again.

I am very open to being wrong. Six months is a long time I suppose.

My vlog watching has not diminished. For someone with a very low tolerance for vloggers, or should I say most vloggers, we have settled on a trio of folks, The Trackers of course, who seem to be approaching Bill Gates levels of earnings from their efforts, and good luck to them, Prince Charming Dev and Paging Mr Morrow. Between the three of them, they do just about produce enough content to occupy the short windows of time I need them to fill as I do my twenty minutes on the bike or during that wasteland of TV around the time we eat our evening meal. Of course, they sometimes all chase the same content as events happen and parks do new things, but overall they are deserving of my eyeballs.

What I would say, is in recent weeks, since the end of the Christmas celebrations at the parks, they have all been enjoying how quiet the parks are. Riding Flight Of Passage with no wait, getting onto Rise Of The Resistance on a whim and generally just walking onto everything. I understand that this makes the experience on the day a nice one, but I am a little concerned about this. I know the parks are quiet at this time of year, but in light of where we are, and looking at the amount of time still to go before the parks can enjoy “normality”, they need to survive. If this quietness continues I worry for more layoffs, closures and other bad things.

The parks need to be there for us all when we can return. I am in no doubt that once we can, there will be the mother of all bounce backs, but I fear for them in short term. It’s probably unfounded as these companies no doubt have more of a clue of how to structure their finances than, and I know it may shock you, some random bloke from Bolton, but I often find that I don’t have enough to worry about, so I take this on as well.

Speaking of stuff to worry about, I do admit that this house move nonsense is getting to me. I think it’s getting to us all. I include Rebecca and Tom in that, as their move last Friday did not happen due to seller idiocy and solicitor delays, with a hint of Covid related issues. They are battling with all of those to try and get their deal over the line and get the keys.

We waited all last week for an update from our solicitor only to find that when we got it, they just confirmed that things were exactly where they were the last time we had an update. It is beyond frustrating. We are unable to plan anything needed for the move whilst at the same time living in a house that is now 45% bubble wrap and cardboard. We await another promised update early next week after of course, I have had to chase them half a dozen times to remind them to give it to us.

Louise is dealing with it all by going and sitting outside our new house. It exists between where we now live and where she works so she often pops by to make sure it is still standing.

After her snow ridden day at work yesterday she called on her way home to see how bad it was to get to when the white stuff hits. It was just about OK.

I have to point out that as large and impressive as that looks, it isn’t all ours. The old farm it is within also houses a couple of other properties inside those gates. However, we are lucky to be moving to somewhere like this. I’ll be honest, it has only been possible as nowadays the mortgage application form has a new section where employees of the NHS can declare the amount of claps they have received and they now count towards your income. Which is nice.

So on we go, into another week, just like the last. I think a lot of folks who bother to read this guff do so because of a shared love of holidays. For many, if you are anything like me, these trips act as both incentives and relief for the day to day slog of going to work. Without them, like now, it feels like there is no wind in the sails. There is literally no choice other than to hunker down, battle through and persist. In a few years time we will, I’m sure, look back on this period as we sip a cocktail on the lanai at Bahama Breeze or tuck into a Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream and laugh/weep.

There I go being positive again. I apologise for the inevitable payback that will bring.

Till the next time…….

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……