Feast and Famine

After a busy and confusing blog last week, documenting the all you can eat buffet of news and announcements about international travel, this week has seen us stricken with a famine of facts. Having hyped ourselves up to think we may get to go away in June, for whatever kind of trip that may be, now we seem to be in a vacuum of updates, without even a firm timeline for when we may know more.

The death of Price Phillip probably hasn’t helped as the country has been consigned to a six month mourning period it seems and nothing can happen until that is over.

So what are we waiting for now?

  1. The US to be added to the green list for UK travellers. The timeline here is “early May”.
  2. The US to confirm they will accept UK travellers. No timeline here, only rumours. I’d hope it coincides with the UK’s publishing of the green list of course.
  3. Confirmation and clarity on what type of tests will be needed to travel.

We only need the first two in order to know if we can go or not, but the third would be nice. Much is said on the news and by politicians about whether or not folks could and should book a summer holiday this year, but the many people like us who have had a trip booked since 2019 that still hasn’t happened, despite shifting it multiple times, seem to be ignored. Our money is spent (to some extent) and sunk into a trip that never seems to happen. It’s hard to cancel and often costly and any rebooking after that sees prices sky rocket compared to what we booked at. It’s a shitty situation.

As time pushes on, balances become due, employers need to know if we’re going and generally the whole pandemic is becoming an inconvenience to my ability to undertake a holiday. If that isn’t the real cost of this virus I don’t know what is! I joke of course, but for the likes of us, it has been an 18 month exercise in planning and logistics, just trying to lose as little money as possible in the whole debacle.

Due to the lack of clarity and a timeline my confidence of going in June has dipped a little from last week, but I suspect nothing has fundamentally changed it is just phycological. We are fast approaching critical timelines though. By the middle of May our balances for the Hard Rock Hotel, villa, car hire and our stay at the Beach Club will all have been due and it is fairly likely we still won’t know for sure if we can go.

If us travellers are feeling like this imagine the boardrooms of airlines and other travel related companies right now. How will they cope with another summer of lost revenues?

Speaking of which, one confusing and surprising piece of news came out of Virgin yesterday.

As I saw on the Brit’s Guide to Florida Facebook group, oddly, Virgin have chosen to push back the resumption date of flights to MCO to the 1st of June from Manchester and Heathrow. With travel possibly being allowed again from May 17th that seems an odd move, unless of course they know something the rest of us don’t? I can’t imagine these huge companies with thousands of staff on furlough won’t be in regular contact with the government, but I am as ever just guessing.

What this means for us I don’t know. That new date is still two weeks before we are due to go, but it may just be now that Virgin are moving their dates back by smaller margins now as we hopefully start to approach some form of normality.

Should we get to go, and mask policy becomes something we need to be aware of, there were further murmurings of relaxation in Florida “towards the summer”. I guess at some point, the vaccine has to be trusted to do its work and maybe a move towards masks being optional outdoors or something similar could happen. I don’t know but the Mayor of Orange County, interviewed again this week, was suggesting a phased approach over the coming months. It will all depend on the stats of course and I guess we have to assume that it will be what it is now and anything better will be a bonus.

I’m at a point of being fine with going or not, but I just need to know one way or another. It is impossible to plan life, never mind the holiday, with all this up in the air with around 60 days to departure.

On that note, tomorrow we can book ADRs for our first day at Disney. My plans there too lie in ruins as the first one on my plan was O’hana which, as yet, is not open. It’s the ultimate first world problem I know, but I live in a first world country and I have problems!

I suspect it may be open by the time we are there but with all the pent up demand, for this and other eateries it could literally be like The Hunger Games trying to get reservations.

All we can do is hope that the data remains good, and the roadmap can be adhered to. I do worry what may happen after May 17th when indoor hospitality opens, based solely on the number of images I’ve seen of people shivering to death around a drink they have been able to have at home for a quarter of the price. With many of those who will want to go drinking not yet being eligible for a jab, case numbers will surely surge at that point? Perhaps it is then that herd immunity can be obtained, with the younger ones getting it and not dying and the ones who may be most severely affected having been jabbed. Alas, my O Level in Biology does not equip me with the required expertise to know.

In my own little coming out of lockdown, later today we are once again able to rehearse and so Mustard will reconvene this afternoon to see if we can still play things. With most of us being very old, we are jabbed up and to facilitate social distancing we have chosen a rehearsal space so large we may not be able to hear each other. Baby steps.

The road back to normality may well be as long as the one we’ve been on trying to get to WDW, but as a wise man once said…

“Stop papping on about your holiday you middle aged, middle class arse biscuit”. And I think we can all get on board with that sentiment.

Till the next time…..

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……

Take Me Down To Cardboard City….

What am I doing here? I haven’t got time for this? People will often say “I have a million things to do” and currently, in my case, that seems literally correct.

The good news is that we did move house on Friday. How I have longed to type those words and have that horror behind us. For more months than I wish to count I have dreaded the day of moving. In fact, way, way back when we were deciding whether to extend or move, I was seriously contemplating months and months of building work just to avoid the experience of packing up and moving to a new place.

Seems silly? Well, you weren’t in my shoes on Friday when those fears were realised. It was not a pleasant day.

I’m not going to go into the multiple horrors in detail. To help my PTSD I need to move on and concentrate on the new beginnings and all that but I will give you some edited highlights.

I don’t know if I told you but we actually had two solicitors, one for the sale and one for the purchase. This was because our first one was relatively newly qualified and when she realised the complexity of our purchase, (due to it being old and with some rights of way issues) she passed that file over to a more experienced colleague. Throughout, that more experienced colleague has been a bit shit.

This held true right to the end. After a fairly easy morning, with the removal men making relatively short work of all the items I had stressed about moving for six months, we got the call before lunch that our sale had completed. We were now homeless for a bit and our selling solicitor had passed everything onto our buying solicitor to do her stuff.

So we actually sat down for a bit, had some lunch and waited for the next call to say we could go and get the keys. As the clock rolled around to 12pm, I was bored with waiting and I set off for the estate agents where the keys would be. This was a good half an hour away so I thought it better to be poised outside for when things happened.

So I arrived and waited. This went on for some time. I called my estate agents, and the seller’s and neither had heard anything. I was trying not to bother my solicitor as they would clearly be busy on a Friday throwing money around for everyone moving house. Ten minutes later and I could wait no longer.

Amazingly I got through and she genuinely seemed surprised to hear from me. I asked for an update. She told me she had sent the money “a while ago” but had not received confirmation from the seller’s solicitor that they had arrived. I explained that my household contents were in a van, I was outside an estate agents in Accrington and our buyer was en-route to my ex-house. These should not be things that need to be explained to a conveyancing solicitor.

“Perhaps you could give them a call?” I suggested, cheerily.

She did and two minutes later I was out of the car, sprinting (Dad jogging) to the estate agents. We had the keys. It was going on for 3pm but we had them.

Sigh.

The rest of the day could have gone better. Our removal men buggered us about by diverting off to another job as we had waited so long for the keys, and that meant we were still emptying our old house late into the afternoon with its new occupants smiling politely and telling me it wasn’t a problem that our fridge and several other items were sat in their new house as they were trying to move in.

Anyway, by about 6.30pm, we waved off the removal van and stared at our new house full of cardboard boxes. A take away happened and then an early night as I was broken both physically and mentally.

Things looked better the next morning. The house didn’t of course as we hadn’t unpacked anything but I took the dogs out on our field (ooohh, get me) and just took a minute to realise we were in, it was done and the worst was over.

I could go on, but honesty I have so much to do. Every room you walk into has a thousand tasks that need sorting, mainly in the shape of a box, so I will leave you to your Sundays.

I need to thank my Mum and Dad for looking after the dogs for the day when we moved. I don’t know what we would have done without their help on the day. The same goes for Rebecca, Tom and Emily’s boyfriend Mikey who have all helped in numerous ways and we are incredibly grateful.

In my immediate future are around 412 tip runs to rid the house of the cardboard mountain we have acquired, and today I am going to try and sort out my office/man cave as I have a desk, chair and other stuff coming early next week.

Overall though, right now it feels like we’ve gone away somewhere nice for the weekend, and it hasn’t quite sunk in that we live here yet, but I suppose that’s a good sign that we’ve done the right thing, despite all the tasks and teething troubles we are currently facing. That’s all natural I suppose when you start to learn to live in a new place after 8 years in another.

More news and photos probably next week when we are a bit more settled.

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……

I Fought The Law…

A long time ago, in a sixth form college far, far away (it’s not, it is actually visible from our bedroom window, but I wanted to shoehorn the Star Wars thing in) a young man briefly toyed with the idea of going to University to study law. A series of unexpected events, involving a week’s work experience in a bank, ending with a job offer and A levels then being abandoned for the lure of £70 a week to fund his ambitions to be a pop star saw that stellar legal career thwarted before it began.

If only I had known the very low bar (pun intended) that seems to be required to practice law, particularly conveyancing (apologies to my conveyancing solicitor reader) I surely could have breezed through life without stress or pressure.

Why am I tarring all such professionals with the same brush? Well, here we sit mere hours now from the day on which we should move house and we STILL don’t know for sure that it is happening. Our buyer’s buyer at the foot of our mercifully short chain is as yet not able to commit to that date. Why you ask? Well, yes I asked the same question. It would appear that when the 26th was suggested and accepted by all parties, the solicitor acting for our buyer’s buyer “forgot” to contact their lender to confirm the date on which their funds would be needed.

This only came to light when I proactively contacted all estate agents and solicitors in the chain that I had details for, checking that everyone was still OK for the 26th. A day or so later this brought forward an email from my solicitor, telling me the news that the start of our chain could not yet commit.

As they are a first-time buyer using a complicated mortgage where relatives donate their savings or some such thing, the release of funds is a complex affair that requires multiple days of complex cyphers and puzzles, a bit like the Da Vince Code but without Tom Hanks, and despite us discovering this cock-up on Tuesday of last week we have still not had confirmation that all will be well for this coming Friday.

We have been assured that Barclays, the lender in question, is expected to confirm the release of funds can be undertaken in time for the 26th on Monday, but still, this has left us with yet another weekend of uncertainty and stress, which makes a nice change.

So despite all the attempts to derail this move, all we can do is continue to pack and pack and pack endlessly, without it seems, any real progress to be seen.

Then, to top off my week, on Friday, our removal man rang me to ask if it was OK if he got to us around lunchtime on Friday as he has had another enquiry for a move on Thursday that he may need to finish off on Friday morning. I shall just let you know that he is turning up at our house at 8.30am on Friday as booked and planned. Sigh…..

I suppose it is months of nonsense like this that leads to me struggling to believe that we will ever live in this house. The thought of moving into the new place was once a source of a modicum of excitement and anticipation and day by day it just becomes a source of worry, stress and angst.

Oh, and….

Knowing that broadband is essential for us workers from home, I ordered it with plenty of time to have it work on the day we move in. A few days later, they contacted me via email with a query about the existing lines in the house. I contacted the seller and answered that on the same day. Having then seen four days go by and my order status not change, I called them. Indeed, nothing had been progressed and now, we won’t have broadband for about four days after we move in. I deliberately chose PlusNet as I spotted the previous owner used them and this should make the transition nice and easy, especially with the house being a bit out in the country. It seems I can do no right. I am raging about this, but apparently, nothing can be done and I sit impotently seething about that as well.

The ordering of new broadband and a TV package for the new place had allowed me last week to finally tell Virgin Media where to stick their temperamental broadband and TV package, uncompetitive prices and even worse customer service where you are not allowed to talk to a human.

Fittingly, it took me five, yes five hours to get to talk to a person and cancel the service. It isn’t actually available at our new house so it saved them the trouble of trying to persuade me to take them with us. I did point out that spending five hours on hold, getting cut off a couple of times and generally suffering this crap for the last few years was not the best way to encourage customer retention. I have to post their kit back to them when we’ve moved. I may do a huge dump in the box.

In an attempt to insert some crumb of house move positivity into this diatribe, Rebecca and Tom picked up their keys on Tuesday. They have already made great progress on the work that needs doing before they can move in but it is great to see them finally over the line. It has gone some way to dispelling the myth that house moves no longer happen and people just stay in a constant state of purgatory until everyone in the chain dies. Decorating has already happened, windows and doors are due to be fitted in the coming days and hopefully within a week or so they will be in and starting to get settled.

So next week I have three days off work because we might be moving house and there are things to do. Then again, we might not, but clearly, I just have to accept this as part of the game. If we are lucky and people fancy doing something to make it happen, the next blog you read will be from our new house. I won’t have broadband of course, so it’ll be some brief badly formatted thing done on my phone. I think I have said this most weeks since the summer (yes, this all started in the summer) but moving house should not be this difficult. The results are in….

Moving House 1 – Overweight Northern Blogger 0

Till the next time…..

It’s A Date!

Thankfully for you dear reader, I will need to be brief this week as I have things to do.

I owe you an update on our move of course after all the moaning of the last few weeks and months. The week started in a maelstrom of frustration and stress and I was almost immediately onto my solicitor in yet another attempt to get things moving, literally.

I can’t remember the play by play breakdown of how things happened, but a few robust conversations were had followed by me pestering anybody even close to your chain. The two remaining queries that were awaited by our solicitor, remained as just that as we careered into Wednesday, and my conversations in those few days were along the lines of, WTF is it that is so hard about these two things that we sit here, six weeks after they were first raised, still waiting.

My solicitor could not understand that either. At one point I even got her on the phone, and despite my shock at that turn of events, I did manage to make that call useful by understanding a little more about what she was waiting for. My questioning was along the lines of….

“You and my seller’s solicitor do this all day everyday. Why are these two things proving beyond you?”

She assured me they were standard queries with what she called standard remedies and it just needed the other side to do something.

With that knowledge and a new level of frustration in hand, I went to our seller’s estate agent again, and began a conversation with the seller, urging him to kick his legal folks up the arse. It all came down to a missing page of the deeds (the house was originally built in the 1700’s so this was not a shock) and the seller needed to provide one more indemnity policy to protect us from whatever might be on that one page.

As a final testament to solicitor inertia and with all due respect to any conveyancing solicitor’s reading this (I know there may be at least one, hi Rhian!) I got a message back from the seller, via their estate agent along the lines of…

“I have seen a new policy from my solicitor. They haven’t told me what it is for or why it is needed, but I have accepted the costs and signed it for the sake of our collective sanity”.

How can I know what the policy was for and he not? It is his house!!

So with my opinion of solicitors damaged a little more, I told myself that I would give my solicitor till about 4.30 that day before calling her to see if she had received this final piece of the jigsaw. At around 4.10 an unknown number rang me on the mobile. The fact that we are six months into this move and my solicitor’s number is unknown to me, says all that needs to be said about the service we have received I think.

She was calling me to let me know that she now had all she needed and we would now be able to aim for a moving date of the 26th of February. This was a date already suggested to us by our very unimpressed buyer a few days earlier in a vain attempt to hurry us along. We needed no hurrying, just a competent legal team.

So there followed several minutes of relief, joy, and delight that we had saved our chain and preserved the chances of us ever moving into this bloody house. Shortly afterwards, the sheer scale of the work still required to get us ready to do so dawned and the stress returned.

It at least allowed me to move onto a load of tasks that I had been gagging to get done. The essentials such as broadband and a TV package needed ordering. The former being absolutely crucial with Emily and I working from home. So those were done along with quite a lot of address changing and informing utility companies of our move. With a following wind, we may actually have broadband in place by the time we get there.

So the long journey to a moving date is seemingly complete. Let’s hope we do not suffer in the same way as Rebecca and Tom, who had their moving date missed again on Friday, due to, you’ll never guess, their solicitor forgetting to do something! They are now lined up for next Wednesday.

I now need to leave you to survey the catastrophic state of our house and find some more things to put into boxes. This will be interspersed with me staring at large pieces of furniture and stressing about how on earth it will get transported to the new place. It’s how we roll these days.

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……

Louise Bought Me Expensive Hose

Hey, guess what? We STILL don’t know when we are moving house. Incredible isn’t it? With how quickly everything else has gone with the process so far it was nailed on that we’d be all sorted this week. Right?

Instead, it took all week, yes five working days, for a set of questions to go from our solicitors to the seller’s, get answered and get sent back. That doesn’t include our solicitor actually checking that they are happy with the answers. Oh no, that has been scheduled for next week, and if they do need further clarification, no doubt that will be another week down the swanny.

To say we are sick of the whole shit show is an understatement. We are trapped in this limbo of being half packed, but unable to do a massive list of tasks that can’t be done until we know when we will actually move.

In better news, after all sorts of shenanigans, stress and swearing, Rebecca and Tom are now scheduled to complete on their purchase on Tuesday. That is a relief and one worry off all our minds. At least they will be sorted and can crack on with the work and decorating it needs before they can move in.

Whoever finds a way to simplify, modernise and speed up the conveyancing process in the UK deserves to be a billionaire. It is literally unbelievable how unfit for purpose the whole thing is. As an example, despite the fact that legally, everything could still fall apart and we may not end up buying the house, we have had to take out buildings insurance on it, as the mortgage company insist on seeing that before they will release the money. So, if the worst happens, we will be the proud owner of an insurance policy on a house we don’t own, for a year.

I think much of my own stress is based on two things –

  1. I am building up the day of the actual move into a horror show that will probably never materialise. For some reason, I think the amount of stuff we have and how big and awkward a lot of our furniture is will be an insurmountable problem for removal folks who do this every day.
  2. I look around at the house and cannot imagine a time when it is totally packed up. The sheer scale of the job terrifies me and we can’t go full steam ahead until we have a date as we need a lot of the stuff for day to day living.

No matter the scale of carnage at the new place, when we are in with all our stuff and we wave off the removal van, I will breathe the largest sigh of relief known to man.

To give you some appreciation of the scale of disruption in the house right now, this is just one corner of our dining room.

To add insult to injury, last week also saw Louise’s car in for a service. It was only marginally cheaper than the house purchase. It has to return for a 2 day stay at the garage next week to complete all the work required. To save time, they have a kidney harvesting facility on-site now, so it’s a one-stop-shop.

Having had a bit of a week, yesterday I undertook some hard labour and carried a lot of boxes down from Emily’s bedroom. She is up in the loft so that was two flights of stairs per box. I then emptied the spare room, Rebecca’s old room, of 90% of the boxes in there too. This is why the dining room looks like it does. By mid-afternoon, after also clearing out and either binning or packing up some of the kitchen, I got a little tired and emotional. I think if any of you had tackled your “under the sink” cupboard, you too may have found that to be the straw that broke your back.

Louise went out to buy a new hosepipe. No, really, it makes perfect sense. It’s January, and we move in a few weeks so this was clearly at the top of our shopping list for understandable reasons.

Wanting to leave our house in the best state for the new occupants Louise decided she needed to jet wash the back yard. Personally, I thought the dark green shade of the flags went well with the overall aesthetic of the back of the house, but no, jet washing was to happen.

Of course, at the back end of the summer, our hose pipe had broken. So Louise came home with a new one yesterday. She asked if I would set it up and connect it to the jet wash. Sure thing. This will just take a couple of minutes, then I can have a sit-down and relax for a bit.

I’ve seen simpler instructions for rocket flight. It was ridiculous and my tired, patience deficient brain just would not onboard the 72 step process to get some water through a pipe. Louise had seemingly bought the most expensive hose in the place, which is not a phrase I can get onboard with unless it is for a special birthday treat.

Things were not helped by Louise suggesting she asked our neighbour or my Dad to do it as they were “better at this sort of thing”. Words were exchanged, at volume. Louise wandered off to get my Dad and in that time, I did manage to figure out at least the first few steps. My Dad arrived and fairly quickly water flowed into the jet wash and I retired indoors to evaluate my life choices.

Had you told me, back in the summer, when this whole house move thing started that my breaking point would be figuring out why a hosepipe had a spring that needed fitting somewhere in it, I may not have believed you. Further breaking points lie ahead I am sure. When I was younger, whatever ailment afflicted me, my Mum would say it was because I was tired. I have self-diagnosed the same thing for me at this time.

So another day lies ahead filled with takings thing out of places and putting them into boxes. Meanwhile, our solicitor might, if the mood takes her, at some time next week, brush the cobwebs off our file and casually glance at what the next steps may be so that we are in for Christmas.

The next time I move house, it will be me in the box being carried out of the house!

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…….

Rescued by Rennies

Greetings from the no man’s land of extra pounds, empty Quality Street wrappers and cheese and biscuits. For those like me, lucky enough to be off for the duration, these are the lost days and you are lucky (or unlucky) that I have remembered that today is Sunday.

Our 2020 style festivities were as lovely as they could be in the circumstances. We didn’t hug, we stayed as far away as possible from each other and the day was shorter than usual. Louise’s Mum was wrapped up and put next to a radiator to combat the breeze from the open window and the switch to a buffet, rather than a “sat down really close to each other” meal was great. Our fridge is still bulging with the leftovers. I think I should be able to stop onboarding Rennies by early March.

As the older generation left us to get “seckled” for Call The Midwife etc, those left ended the night with a disturbing game of Cards Against Humanity and a decent amount of alcohol.

Freddie of course had the time of his life, opening presents for about eight hours solid.

He still has a number of unwrapped presents boxed and pristine here which will need to be opened and played with whenever he can return. He was a little superstar all day as he always is (yes I am biased) and it was just lovely to spend that time with him.

Louise was working on Boxing Day so my day involved making Eggs Benedict for those not working, (it’s one of our little Christmas traditions) and a little bit of tidying. Our house was unrecognisable, buried under the chaos of the day before, so there was a little bit of reconstruction, but not too much as the exertions of the day before had taken its toll on my age ravaged body. I had a little play of one of my new PS4 games, which was 90% waiting for stuff to download and 10% playing.

So the last Christmas day (barring disasters) in our current house was a nice one, but I think it’s fair to say that we are all looking forward to all those to come in our new one. It is a bit bigger and more able to host what can hopefully be larger groups, with no restrictions in years to come.

A number of my gifts were new house related. Louise got me a lovely map of WDW to hang in what will be my office, along with a very good quality pair of proper Wellies as we are of course becoming landed gentry with a little chunk of land out the back of the new house. They will be essential for the walking of the dogs on it. Louise also put a huge amount of time and effort into finding an exact replica of Ryan the Rucksack. As the original is well over twenty years old then that is very impressive. We’ll now have two “Ryans” to travel with us. As if the OG is going to be retired!!

In the same vein, I got Louise a picture/painting she had admired in a shop we ordered our new couch from a few weeks ago. It will look lovely wherever Louise tells me to hang it in the new place.

One of Emily’s gifts was a large mirror for her new bedroom and Rebecca and Tom’s main gift was also new house-related, with us contributing to some improvements they want to make as soon as they move into their new place. It’s fair to say that we are all focussed on these new beginnings coming early in 2021.

The focus for me over the next week is one of recharging and relaxing if I can. I think there will need to be a start made to the packing up of stuff and with that in mind, we have been collecting boxes for weeks now. Many of those boxes have come from us trying one of these meal delivery services recently. We had fallen into the trap of eating the same meals every week, and as I got a healthy discount for a trial period via work, we gave it a go. So we’ve had some nice meals in recent weeks, which has been a lovely change and each cardboard box will be ideal for moving. They keep pestering me to recruit other folks to their service so if you were thinking about it you can get £20 off using my special code thing. Believe me, this is in no way sponsored. No bugger gives a toss about my blog enough to be giving me paid promotions.

I hope your Christmas was as good as it could be. I will improve it a little by putting a stop to this rambling drivel now. My brain is semi-disengaged and this post is proving that. By the time we meet again, 2020 will be behind us. I still think we have some tough times to endure in the early parts of the new year. I don’t think New Year’s Eve will be any form of an immediate watershed between bad and good (are they ever?) but let’s keep our fingers crossed that as we move into Spring and Summer, 2021 gives us back some form of normality.

Please accept best wishes for the new year from myself, Louise, Emily, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie and if there is one thing to cling to it is that the atrocity that is Mrs Brown’s Boys is now behind us. The only way is up.

Till the next time……

Tiers Of A Clown

Well, where to start? Perhaps with a genuine question. How are you doing?

If you just want to rant, have a moan, or just get off your chest how you are feeling, then feel free to do so in the comments here. It is very unlikely I’ll be able to help of course. I’m just a portly middle-aged bloke stumbling through all this like everyone else, but, as I find with Twitter, it can sometimes help just to get things off your chest.

Yesterday saw the year rounded off with a crescendo of incompetence. A tribute to the constant litany of dither, delay, and mixed messaging that has seen the UK spend the most per capita on the pandemic and still have the worst death rate in Europe and the worst economic outcome. It isn’t the measures that piss me off. I’m usually on the side of supporting measures designed to restrict the spread of the virus and will fight that corner in the trenches of the Facebook comments section on an ever more regular basis, but as ever, despite all evidence to the contrary, the government make announcements that they think will make them popular/less hated and then right at the last minute, snatch hope away from millions with a U-Turn and a reversal to a policy that was obviously the correct thing to do anyway.

I know this is an unprecedented situation, but it is for every government and every country and yet we still set new standards in ballsing it up on a daily basis. This latest last-minute U-Turn saw hundreds of folks at London train stations last night trying to head north, spreading that lovely new strain of the disease to the parts of the country that currently aren’t seeing too much of it.

Being relatively unscathed by yesterday’s nonsense, sitting here in a consistent Tier 3 for weeks, I can only send sympathies to anyone who has just had their plans ruined at the last minute. If we had locked down longer and harder in the last few weeks to prepare for Christmas, and done a whole host of other things that would not have thrown away the relatively solid situation we were in during the summer, things may have been different again. That may have allowed some sort of Christmas. How much easier would coming to terms with just one day of limited relaxing of restrictions for Christmas have been had we known weeks ago? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but there have been experts saying this for weeks now. How often can you consistently make the wrong calls?

All we can do I think is cling to the hope of the vaccine that is being rolled out and the others that will hopefully be approved shortly to save us from further acts of incompetence. As of yesterday, I believe 350,000 people have had their first jab. Of course, the Health Minister promised “millions would be vaccinated by the end of the year”, but I think we just need to ignore this sort of stuff now and just see how things pan out.

On that subject, last Tuesday I took Louise’s Mum for her first jab. Mary is in her late eighties now and as is your absolute right at the age, has some pre-existing conditions. These have meant that lockdown has been pretty grim for her. So she called her GP to make sure she was one of the first in line, so off we went.

I was very impressed with the setup, to be honest. It was incredibly well organised with a mixture of clinical staff and volunteers corralling lots of old people into the various stages of the process. There was, and I know this sounds odd, a nice atmosphere. One of community spirit, pulling together and finally hitting back against the virus. It was great to see the place so busy, full of people doing their part in trying to get us out of this mess. In the interests of balance, from my limited experience, it is being executed efficiently and quickly and if that is the case, the government deserve credit for that.

Mary has to go back, three weeks to the day, for her second jab and then will be “protected” about a week or so after that. I am of course no expert on any of this, but I do try to read as much stuff as I can from trusted sources, and I came across an article that gave me some comfort and encouragement last week, so I clung to it like a drowning man to a raft. I offer you the same raft here.

It said something like if we vaccinate the over 75’s, which is about 9% of the population, then, based on the demographic of deaths we’ve seen so far, they estimate the death rate would reduce by about 70%. This would protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, which has always been the government’s main aim (they say), and that may well then allow many of the restrictions to be lifted. With younger folks much more able to get the virus, have a few shitty days and not go and die, then life may be able to edge back towards normality. I know people of all ages have died of this thing, but I’m talking generally of an approach that may see us escape most of the worst restrictions before the summer. Not just for the sake of our holiday, which seems more irrelevant than ever right now, but I hope that is the case because it really is something we’ve all now had enough of I’m sure.

In what has been a busy news week, the virus made an appearance in our little world last week too. Tom tested positive last Tuesday, along with his Mum and his brother, who all work together. This was not good news, and it meant all of us went into a period of isolation as we had seen Tom, masked and socially distanced when helping out with Freddie. We all had tests and thankfully, nobody else returned a positive result and we hope it stays that way. Tom has since had a negative test result.

At the same time, my brother messaged me to let me know his wife had tested positive too. Thankfully, she and Tom were not seriously ill with it and it is just a case of riding it out. This entire thing is, as they say, a shit show. Our collective isolations end around the 22nd or 23rd of December, and with us all testing negative and pretty much self-isolating between now and Christmas Day, we plan to stick to the Tier 3 rules of three households briefly getting together.

To make the gathering as safe as possible we have abandoned plans for a sit-down meal, replacing it with a buffet. Windows will be opened as per the advice, and folks shall be distanced, banned from hugging and generally told to stay away from each other. Is it the right thing to do? I have no idea. We have taken every precaution to make sure we are all negative, made the set up of the day as safe as possible and balanced the risks against the prospect of seeing mine and Louise’s parents sat on their own on Christmas Day, as they have for pretty much every day since March.

I know it is hardly worthy of any consideration right now, but on the subject of our frequently rearranged holiday, it appears I was right to move it when I did. When you are right as seldom as I am, I will bask just a little to say that I have started seeing posts in the various Disney Facebook groups about flight operators now cancelling flights for March and beyond. Having already gone through the pain of the reschedule, I’m pleased I don’t need to worry about that….yet. June is by no means guaranteed of course, more now than ever.

It seems trite to wish you a Merry Christmas as I cannot fathom where everyone’s head is at right now. Make the best of it you can, do take up my offer of having a rant and a moan if it will help and let’s just hope things get better as quickly as possible. As pissed off and bored as you might be, and lacking in faith that all and any government advice is not worth listening to, adhering to the basic rules as much as possible will accelerate that so I hope you can and will.

All the best to you all from myself and the family. x

Till the next time…….

I Should Be So Lucky……

As the week has gone on, the number of pricks all over the news has increased. But, I promised myself I would never blog about Brexit, so instead let me celebrate the start of the vaccine rollout. Indeed, Louise’s Mum is off to get her first dose next Tuesday. So after her second jab and a brief waiting-period, she should be “sorted” in early to mid-January. As much as she will need to remain vigilant, it should allow her to leave the house, which is something she has only done a handful of times since March.

I think it is fair to say that she is over the whole pandemic thing and has moved beyond stir crazy. So it shouldn’t be too long before she can re-enter the world and do crazy things like join us for Sunday tea. Hopefully, my Mum & Dad won’t be too far behind as they too are very much done with the whole thing.

As 2020 staggers towards its end, I begin my countdown to finishing work for my traditional extended Christmas break. One week people, just five little days until I get two weeks away from work. Technically, with my “desk” being the dining room table it means that I won’t be away from it at all, but I am looking forward to not having to join any video calls for a good period of time. I say this with full recognition that I am not digging ditches or saving lives, but I am knackered and in need of some down time.

Louise has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off which is a nice change from recent years and she too is in need of a break, much more than I am, I would imagine. I can’t share with you some of the horrific incidents and fluids she deals with on a daily basis. If you knew, you’d immediately support a quadrupling of nurse’s salaries just to never hear of them again. To prevent Louise from spending her two days off shopping and cooking we have ordered in a buffet for Christmas Day. Most of us would prefer the more traditional sit down do with all the trimmings but, knowing how much time and effort goes into making that most years, we have decided not to play that game this year and be kind to ourselves.

So the plan is that sometime after lunch we lay out the buffet and let the very few folks in attendance graze at their leisure for however long they wish. As a double bonus, it should also reduce the amount of stuff to cram into the dishwasher and instead we can settle down to watch the glorious array of delights scheduled on the telly for the big night. I mean who doesn’t want to sit back and watch Call The Midwife and Mrs Brown’s Boys? In normal circumstances, I would sneer with derision at the numpties and their “Defund the BBC” nonsense, but looking at their output for the festive period, I could be tempted.

In the interests of balance, ITV does not escape my wrath. What, in the name of national lobotomy, is “The Real Full Monty On Ice”? How are we still being force-fed the endless rehashing of the “minor celeb learns a new skill” format? There are a species of “celebrities” that no longer actually do anything, apart from appearing on this endless round of gravy trains. Having said that, they are the showbiz elite compared to the dregs of society that appear on nothing but “Celebs Go Dating” abominations. I’m looking at you Callum Best. He is now in his mid-fifties (surely) and should know better. The other ex-Love Island desperados are perhaps understandably seeking out their six minutes of pseudo fame in the hope of getting a Misguided discount code named after them, but it should all be set on fire and replaced with the test card. Anyway….

A good few weeks ago we did hold out a very slim hope of getting into our new house for Christmas. It would have been lovely as it is a house seemingly purposely built to host the festivities, (not that we could actually host very many folks this year of course) but the glacial speed of solicitors, surveys and searches put paid to those hopes some time ago. Our buyer is ready now, but we are still some way off being so, as our searches seem to be being undertaken by Bob Cratchet with a quill and parchment, rather than in the 21st Century using the technology available to all. I’ll say it again, how can the process of house buying and selling still be so slow in 2020?

In better house news, you may remember me mentioning some weeks ago that Rebecca and Tom were also house hunting. Their struggles to board the property ladder have been enormous, but it does look like they are almost there. They have found a house, had an offer accepted and just last week, after jumping through more hoops than an agility dog, had their mortgage approved. It’s testament to their determination and hard work that two folks of that age can make that happen. They will almost certainly be in before we are, hopefully very early in the New Year.

So inevitably, at this time of year, thoughts turn to the future, as if the transition from one day to another at the end of December is actually that significant. This year, more than most, I suppose everyone will have high hopes for the year to come. That is of course based mainly on the absolute shit show that has been 2020. For us, as I’ve said a few times, we have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. Thankfully Emily and I work for a brilliant company that is run extremely well and we have been protected from any financial impact. Louise of course is more in demand than ever, but she has had an incredibly busy and stressful last nine months. Nursing is always like that, but the dial has been spun a few times since March.

Rebecca works in a nursery, at our local hospital, so has had a busy time looking after the children of all the folks working in the hospital, so again has not suffered any risk of losing any income but has had a busy time. Tom has been broadly unaffected. He works for a company that designs and builds windows, bi-folds and conservatories etc and they have seen demand go off the scale. So for all my moaning, I know we’ve been lucky.

So for next year, some more of that luck would be good, with a lot less pandemic, so that Louise’s job may become close to tolerable at some point, and with a large dollop of holiday right in the middle of it. Hopefully starting the year in a new house, in a new town is an exciting prospect which lays down a marker for a new standard of good stuff coming our way.

Look at all that positivity and gratefulness. Don’t worry you are at the right blog. I am just (apart from on Twitter) ignoring the elephant in the room that is coming on January 1st at the hands of the idiots in charge. You will not find an equivalent act of national self-harm in modern history and I cannot fathom any upside whatsoever. Sigh.

So with loins girded for one last push of the grindstone, I shall see you here next week for the start of the festivities. For anyone not enjoying an extended break or any of the luck I have described above, I wish you well and hope things improve quickly for you.

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……