Virgin On The Ridiculous

We have a lot to get through so let’s not waste time. Take it as read that I’m a first world problem, holiday obsessed idiot with no awareness of the real problems going on around me.

The week began in a maelstrom of self-doubt and second-guessing. As soon as I pressed the button (metaphorically) to change our trip everything suddenly seemed to be getting a lot better very quickly.

This, of course, was just my perception and a reaction to having made the call, but it did not stop me persecuting myself. I’m not often right in my predictions but my spider-sense was absolutely spot on with regards to Virgin. Their website promises a joyously seamless experience should you wish to move your booking to a new date. I feared this was bollocks and I was very correct.

I emailed them and got no response within the 48 hours promised so I resorted to messaging them. What followed was a text message conversation that lasted longer than a 13-year-old talking to his first crush.

It may well have been that I just struck unlucky with my agent, but I don’t know what happened. It was a mess. I understand many agents are working from home and they may be worried about their jobs and long term future with Virgin of course, but it won’t stop me moaning about it like a man-baby.

It didn’t start well as their first reply to my initial message confirmed that my booking had been moved to the 26th of August. I pointed out those were my original dates and could they move it to the 1st of March as I’d requested. I was then told to go online and do that. If the agent knew anything about me at all they would have known that I would do almost anything to avoid dealing with a human being if an online alternative exists, but I patiently explained there was no option to change my booking to new dates online, or else, I would have done that before emailing and texting them.

Having run a dummy booking on their site for our new dates I saw that I could get Premium both ways for a few hundred quid more so I requested that. Apparently, when booking that via a person it comes with a slight surcharge of £425 each. Not wanting to prolong this agony I told them to just move the thing as it was to the new dates. This was just the beginning of the longest run of changing facts since the Vote Leave campaign.

Next, I was told there were no seats in the cabin we had booked on our outbound flight and there would be a price difference to pay as we’d have to go “Economy Delight” rather than “Classic”. I asked how much that would be and/or if the next day’s flight had better availability.

Some time passed and I was then told I’d be better off getting back to them “later” as they’d know more then what might be available. “Later” seemed to mean closer to our original departure date. How unavailable seats become available “later” wasn’t clearly explained. I explained I could not do that as I had a million other moving parts of this trip, some of which were holding dates for me and I just wanted to move the booking as promised on their web site.

I was getting tetchy at this point and having run that dummy booking on their web site, I could see a load of empty “Classic” seats. When I pointed this out, suggesting several rows that I’d be happy with, suddenly they miraculously found some too and, good news, they could be mine for just £145 extra…each. I declined, questioning why I needed to pay extra for the same cabin I had on my existing booking.

Amazingly, now they went back to insisting there were no “equivalent” seats on the outbound again and I would need to pay them lots of money. I asked about a refund. All I got was a standard reply saying I had to email another address and refunds would take a lot longer then the 90-day rule says it should. Confused? So was I.

I enquired why they were inventing extra charges. They said they were not, and they just had no equivalent cabin seats and I would need to upgrade. Pointing out that the dummy booking I was looking at was actually cheaper than the price I paid for our original dates they said they could not price match to the web site as it gave a discount. I do love a consistent brand experience across their various channels. You can’t beat a company’s website competing against their own call centre agents to give customers a warm glow. I said I did not want a price match, I wanted them to book us some of the available Classic seats I had already paid for and I could see lots of online.

Then I was told that I didn’t have Classic on my original booking (even though I could see it on their website that I did).

Apparently, they suddenly decided to tell me that I had OSCAR reservations which were promotional and funnily enough my new dates did not qualify for that promotion so I would need to pay another £900 if I changed to the new dates.

So the only option I now seemed to have was to apply for an open ticket as apparently then I could make my own new booking on their website. I abandoned the text conversation at that point and I filled out the form on their web site requesting that my booking be converted into an open ticket. This was Tuesday, four days after we decided to move the flight and we were still no further forward. Those who know me at all will understand that this would not be good for my planning obsessed, uncertainty allergic state of mind.

Much time passed and nothing happened. The form told me that I could relax now and, although it may take a few days they would sort it all out and come back to me.

They did not come back to me.

By Saturday I was stressed out, anxious and angry. I’d already moved the theme park tickets to next year, investing in a new one for Freddie who will be three next March and I had the villa holding our new dates, now, for over a week. I had a Frankenstein of a trip, made up of two different sets of dates and nobody at Virgin cared one jot.

On Saturday afternoon I decided enough was enough and I did something I never do. I phoned them. I had to wait 90 minutes listening to Bitter Suite Symphony by the Verve, before getting through to someone. Melanie, the agent I was connected to was Welsh, lovely, professional, efficient and understanding.

Not that I have anywhere else to take my Trans Atlantic business in future, but she restored my faith in the company I have to fly with.

Within ten minutes the dates were changed. Did I have to pay the extra £900? Nope. There was no charge to amend the booking of course, but there was, for reasons I didn’t understand or care enough to get into at this stage, a £30 per person fare difference. This would be more than compensated for by the £210 refund I was due for the bubble seats we’d upgraded to that no longer existed. I did have to pay the extra there and then and wait about six months for the refund, but all in all, after the angst of the week just gone, I took that as a victory. I did have one last concern.

With the dates now moved, I had a fear that my request to convert my booking into an open ticket (remember that?) would still be carried out. Melanie assured me she would add notes to my booking so that would not happen. As much as I want to believe my new friend Melanie, I hope that works out.

Immediately I could see the new details on their web site and I was able to book seats and meals. It was a relief.

With that in place, I could now move through the other required changes like a virus at a protest. Of course, everyone wanted their extra pound of flesh. I could change the villa booking online as that was with Airbnb. I had been messaging the owner and I did again to query whether the chunky extra fee I was being shown was valid and they really would charge me that. It was and they did.

I booked the Hard Rock for our new dates and again, the prices now quoted were significantly higher than the ones for this August. I also requested our original booking was cancelled. Travel Republic allows you to book with a very low deposit with free cancellation right up until the booking, so surely that will all be straightforward. Right?

I have messaged USRentaCar to move our booking to March. The same intuition that told me Virgin would be a shit show also tells me there will be more money heading their way for the privilege. I will, of course, let you know.

I emailed our airport taxi, and that change was the least painful of them all with an immediate reply saying that was all OK with no mention of extra costs. There’s time for that I suppose. I even messaged my nephew Jack who house and dogs sits for us and booked him for the new dates.

So I think we’re all sorted now, or as sorted as we need to be at this stage.

Having found it so hard to make the change, I did feel an unexpected sense of relief at having done so. I did get a cold shiver after seeing the new dates for the flights on the My Booking part of Virgin’s site. It was a sudden horrific confirmation that I wouldn’t be there this August, but overall, I feel it’s probably the right thing to do.

This view has been confirmed slightly by the case numbers in Florida spiking over the last few days of course. They do seem to be rising quite dramatically and were we still planning to go at the end of August that would be stressing me right out.

There’s some suggestion that the extra positive cases are a result of increased testing, but that, from the Republican Governor hell-bent on re-opening seems like a bit of a stretch.

Disney is publishing more detail on resort and park rules and I’m more convinced than ever that we wouldn’t be getting into a Disney park every time we might want to so I suppose that is some consolation.

Now, I can concentrate on stressing about what things will be like next March of course. I just pray there is a vaccine between now and then.

It’s been a week I wouldn’t wish to repeat and now you just have to endure me papping on about this trip for the next 267 days or so. Enjoy!

Till the next time……

Defeated and Demoralised

Let me get the obligatory “first world problems” caveat out of the way. We are all healthy, housed, clothed fed and safe. I understand most folks have it worse than me and I know I am a snivelling gimp for what is to about to happen. With that said, I am about to unleash both barrels of my moan-gun all over this blog.

On Friday the decision was made to postpone our upcoming trip.

I am very much not OK about this. Yes, it was a special trip for my 50th and that hurts a bit, but more than that, I just miss the place, need a holiday and was really, really looking forward to spending some time with the family in nice weather with nice food. (I refer you again to paragraph one above).

Why did we take that decision? Well, for many reasons I suppose.

First, of course, is our own safety. Whilst this is our primary concern it isn’t the thing that I feel is the highest risk or the main reason to defer. I am pretty confident I have had it, along with Tom and Rebecca. Louise suspects she had it very early in the outbreak but of course none of us knows for sure. Hopefully, that affords us some protection. None of our party is particularly at high risk, but of course, we need to protect ourselves as much as possible. However, we are no less likely to catch it here than in the US, to be honest.

In reality, the procedures outlined by Disney for their re-opening were the straws that broke this camel’s back. I woke on Friday to the news that all my ADRs had been cancelled as I suspected they would be. You can’t socially distant in restaurants that are full. It also became almost clear that there would be a reservation system to get into Disney parks. Being off-site scum, without a valid park ticket (yet), I assumed we would be some way down the pecking order in getting those. That would make the investment in a 14-day ticket unjustifiable.

Add to that the fact that masks would be mandatory for Freddie and there would be no parades or fireworks, then for us, I felt the effort and investment to get over there, didn’t feel like it would be worth it. I am not moaning about Disney doing any of this. They need to do what they need to do. In a way, I feel they want to deter visitors, certainly in the first few weeks.

There is still much for Disney to outline, flesh out and confirm of course but for us, with park tickets to buy in the next few weeks, there is too much uncertainty around gaining entry to parks for us to go ahead and do that, with the seemingly unavoidable risk that we may not get a reservation to get into a park on some days.

Secondly, I don’t want to get into political discussions on here, that’s what my Twitter is for, but all I will say is that I have very limited confidence in the respective governments of the UK and the US getting their countries out of this any time soon. Neither have a test, track and trace scheme in place and neither are seeing their infection and/or death rates coming down as other similar countries are.

It is spikey, but the above shows the new cases in Florida. The trend just isn’t going down. Even if international travellers from the UK were allowed into Florida by the end of August, that may only add to what seems to be a second wave forming from the limited re-opening the state has allowed already.

As for the UK. I do despair. Our trend looks better, but we haven’t opened up things like restaurants, gyms and hairdressers yet as Florida has. Yet we do seem to think it’s OK to send the kids back to school whilst the test and trace scheme so crucial to ending lockdown was “launched” prematurely with all the hallmarks of success we have come to expect from the response to the pandemic so far.

With gatherings of up to 6 being allowed alongside schools going back and with large parts of the country citing Dominic Cummings as an excuse to do whatever the hell they like, my confidence in us avoiding a second wave, or more accurately a prolonging of the first, is not very high. That, in the context of our holiday, might mean non-essential travel not being allowed any time soon. That also brings up fears of the sustainability of airlines like Virgin who are currently sitting on a good chunk of money.

I understand many of you may feel differently about the approach and “success” so far and I respect that. I’m just outlining some of my thinking whilst trying to avoid too long a stint on my soapbox.

So, for those and many other reasons I won’t bore you with, it was with a heavy heart and massive sulk on that I emailed Virgin on Friday and requested our booking be moved to the 1st of March. I haven’t had a response yet and I do have a fear deep down that this change won’t go as smoothly as their website claims it will, but if all goes to plan that is when we will be going.

I have emailed the villa and they are holding our new dates until Virgin confirm the change and then I can swing into action and sort out everything else.

Now that the decision is made my worry can be transferred onto the topic of whether or not things will be any different in March. My main hopes there are that there might be a vaccine so that things like masks and social distancing won’t be needed as much, but I just hope stuff is more back to “normal” than it would be in three months from now.

I am most definitely not OK. The dread of facing a whole other winter before getting back there is horrifying. As for how I will feel on the 26h of August, our intended departure date and my birthday a few days later are not worth thinking about.

Inevitably, even before the new flights are confirmed I am doubting the decision. I think (and hope) that is just driven by how much I miss the place. I watched a vlog of someone wandering Disney Springs yesterday, and despite the masks and distancing, it was still that beautiful dusky time of the evening, lovely and warm and full of that twinkly light Florida loveliness and my heart broke.

I wonder if I have gone too early and with three months before we would have arrived, might things have improved/changed in the parks by then? If I am sat watching folks enjoying stuff without too much disruption in early September I will be very hard on myself. I also constantly wonder if we should have just abandoned the parks and gone for a “relaxing break” on a beach somewhere in Florida but that isn’t the first choice of holiday for a few of our party and the rejigging of accommodation would inject quite a lot of extra cost into a trip with a lot already invested.

More than anything I am just horrified at the prospect of how much work is stretching out before me now until we get to go on holiday. That’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t want to do and I am very sad, probably in more ways than one.

Till the next time……

That Was The Week The Wedding Wasn’t.

Before I move on to more important matters let’s get the angst-ridden holiday waffle over with.

There has been a lot happening this week. I’m sure some of it is positive and some negative but I have no idea which is which.

I was very surprised to see Universal announce they will open on June 5th. That’s a whole month ahead of when I thought that might happen. Once again, proof, as if you need it, that I have absolutely no clue. That feels early to me if I am honest but I refer you to my last sentence.

Disney Springs opened last week too. I watched some vlog footage of that and it looked very, very quiet so it’s hard to make any sort of judgement on that so it is one to watch I suppose.

Disney seems to be keeping their powder dry as to when their parks may open. I think there might be a couple of factors here. They may have been waiting to see what Universal announced and I think the discussions for them to host the rest of the NBA season at WDW were also a factor. That seems to be happening in July which may suggest their resorts and perhaps the parks might be open then too.

Then the 14-day quarantine was announced for folks entering the UK from June 8th. It may seem odd that the country with the worst record in Europe is starting that this month, long after other countries did, but little shocks me right now. There is no clue as to how long that will last for, but I think there’s an exception if you somehow manage to drive to Durham on your return to the country. Of course, if that were in place at the end of August, assuming entry into the US were allowed (and it currently isn’t) that would be another reason we won’t be able to go.

All ends up, we’re not really any further forward on knowing what will happen for us. The only real change is that I am more accepting of what will be I suppose. I don’t feel driven to be moving the thing right now as I was last week and I am fairly comfortable with seeing how things pan out. My own personal view right now is, should we be allowed and able to travel on our dates then I would be happy to go to have some form of holiday.

What I think will happen is that we won’t be able to travel and that will mean we should be able to cancel our villa booking without losing our chunky deposit and then I can then rebook the whole thing on the best dates for us rather than being tied to when that villa has availability. Having spent days (literally) finding that villa, that will be a bitter pill to swallow, but there is no perfect outcome here.

I think flights to the US will start running around our dates but I have a strange feeling that they will start from early September, discouraging those with kids from taking their summer holidays as schools may be open to some extent. Boy, am I glad my two are out of school. I do not envy any parent that decision of whether to send your kids to school. If my prediction is right (and there is no precedent for that) then our departure date will be a few days the wrong side of flights starting up and we will be rearranging.

We’re still three months out and things are changing rapidly now so who knows.

In more important news, yesterday should have been Rebecca and Tom’s wedding. They have, of course, been upset this week. It didn’t help that we couldn’t all be together to help them through it, but everyone rallied round as best we could to make the day as tolerable as possible. Flowers, afternoon teas, posh takeaways and all sorts of other treats were bestowed upon them from all sorts of folks and all things considered they had as nice a day as they could.

Rebecca made this lovely video for Tom which sums up how they feel about the whole thing.

It is no consolation but the weather yesterday would have made the day an interesting one with gale force winds for most of the day. Hopefully, next July will see better conditions.

I, like you no doubt, am very much over all these ruined plans and hope that we can return to some kind of certainty soon. A large chunk of my life is spent planning stuff so these conditions are not my natural habitat.

Till the next time……

(Unf)Air BnB

In all my times of whinging and a moaning over the years, seldom have I been so securely ensconced within a glass case of emotion.

Last week was the one when I seriously started to consider realistic options for our holiday. Now, again, I know I seem to talk exclusively about this here, but that’s kinda what this blog is about and for. I am appropriately concerned, stressed, worried, perplexed and angry about a whole range of proper stuff in real life so don’t take this weekly obsession with a trip to some theme parks as a litmus test to my moral compass.

Is it only me who can remember about three things from school? One being litmus test, one is an essay I wrote about the French Revolution, including the opening sentence (and got an A!) and the last is how to ask for black forest gateau in German.

I am in deep turmoil. I swing on a minute by minute basis from thinking our original dates might work and then just minutes later I wonder if even postponing to next Spring will give us enough time for this thing to get sorted to a level where holidays can happen. It’s one roller coaster I don’t enjoy.

I have watched the footage of City Walk re-opening (or small parts of it) and heard the news of Disney Springs planning to do the same. Online commentary ranges from “I don’t know why they even shut the parks as I have been injecting disinfectant into my eyeballs since February and this is all a hoax…MAGA” to “the parks will be shut until 2050 and anyone who even considers setting foot in one before that has the blood of children on their hands”.

Florida has just moved into “full phase one” which means restaurants can go to 50% capacity as long as the 6ft rule is observed and they opened barbers, nail salons and gyms even though those were not officially included in phase one. Infection rates in Florida are steadyish currently but the next few weeks will be crucial and determine if they proceed to phases 2 and 3. Theme parks are now allowed to request permission to open by submitting their plans to keep folks safe.

I am torn between wanting things to get back to something approaching normal of course but fearing what we will see in a couple of weeks time when the limited reopening in Florida possibly leads to a spike in infections and deaths. I don’t like the current situation.

I have found and enjoyed useful information from this chap on You Tube.

I have never watched any of his “normal” videos which I assume are theme park based, but his concise daily summaries have been helpful. He covers daily infection and death rates in Florida and outlines and then visits stuff as it opens up again. He is on the ground in Florida so has useful insight into what is actually going on. For what it’s worth, his thinking is that parks are set for a July 1st opening, with oodles of restrictions.

My thinking this week has been in the form of a few different options. None of them are particularly pretty and certainly, none are perfect. This whole decision is more complex than a complex thing. Very few elements of our existing trip plans function well together with any change to our dates and with most options, we are likely to lose money.

Option 1

We go as planned and make the most of the likely limited park experiences. This assumes flights are operating and the US is allowing European flights in and there are no 14-day quarantine restrictions at each end. That’s a lot of moving parts to fall into place and for that reason, this option, right now, seems unlikely to me. Virgin tell me our flights are currently scheduled to depart as planned but that means little without both the UK and the US allowing non-essential travel to resume. You may have gathered by now that my confidence in either administration’s ability to manage that adequately is on the low side.

One of the other big unknowns with this option is the limited capacity in the parks. Suggestions are that you may need to book your attendance each day. Six Flags have published their “rules” for re-opening and this is what they are doing. Shanghai Disney are saying…

“Guests are required to purchase dated admission tickets prior to their arrival, and Annual Pass holders must make a reservation for their visit date and time through the resort’s official online channels before their visit to the park.”

Now for parties like us that have spent thousands on 14-day tickets, how will that work? Do we risk not getting “in” on some days and therefore losing that money? This is one thing that will need lots of clarity and will be a big factor in us being able to go ahead with plan A should we even want to.

Option 2

We go as planned, assuming all the same stuff as above and don’t do the parks at all (maybe Universal as we’ll be on-site). Instead, we do a beach holiday. Again, we lose the cash paid to the villa already and need to pay for new digs. However, we do save many thousands by not buying theme park tickets.

Option 3

We move to a late November/early December date this year. Things may be clearer and more settled in the parks or they may not. I do like the idea of experiencing the Christmas stuff without the peak holiday crowds in early December but the uncertainty of all this is doing my nut and I have no idea what to do.

A significant consideration in all of these options is that should we move dates, the villa we booked is unavailable on all dates prior to March. On the face of it, should we move dates before next March and then we have to find a new villa/accommodation and we lose a non-trivial amount of cash already paid to Air BnB.

Option 4

We move the thing to next year, say, early March. January and February may be too cold and I don’t want to wait until next summer as I want a holiday and I will stamp my feet until I get one. Currently, our villa has dates available so we would not lose any cash in this scenario.

This experience has got me thinking twice about whether I would book through Air BnB again as their deposit requirements are high and cancellations costly. I have not yet spoken to the owner directly and they may, of course, be more forgiving, but I suspect they don’t have too much wriggle room as they are bound by the terms of the site we booked through.

Virgin Atlantic updated its policy last week. If like us you booked before March and travel before October you can move your dates for free, with no penalty or price difference for a new trip with a return before November 30th. That doesn’t work for us dates wise but still, if we move dates, we won’t be charged any admin fees but would need to pay any price difference.

As we would be moving from August to a quieter time, any price difference should be minimal. Looking at the Virgin site we could rebook for early March and get Premium both ways, rather than just on the return leg as we have now for a couple of hundred quid more.

Being me, I, of course, want to get it sorted and reinstate some certainty back in to (that part of) my life but I don’t feel informed enough to do so. If I haven’t pushed the button on any of this soon, things will come to a head in June as that is when balances on things like car hire are due and we’ll have to decide to do something or nothing at that point. Knowing me, I will have done something already as I am not renowned for my laid back, let’s see what happens approach!

Part of me is urging that I just sit tight for a while. This will allow us to see what the parks do, and more importantly, if non-essential travel crucially is allowed again. If it isn’t and the flight gets cancelled on us, our options for moving it without penalty or price difference would be extended to later dates….perhaps. Having said that, that doesn’t matter too much as the flights in November or March are a similar or lower price than we paid for our current August dates.

Sigh, I suspect you are all more fed up of this than I am. Well, let me tell you, you may think you are but you are most definitely not. But at least I actually get to go on the trip if and when it gets sorted. You just get all the moaning. At this point, writing this stuff here is close to therapy and is an outlet for my frustration and angst. Having laid out the options in detail and worked through the finances of all of them, I think I have discounted the November option. The loss of villa deposit and having to find new accommodation makes that too pricey. It would appear we are faced with a choice between going as currently planned or going next March.

Deep down, I know that March is the only option that gives any drop of certainty. The thing stopping me pressing the button on that is the thought of the horror of having to endure another UK winter without a break. At this point I honestly don’t know how I would drag my flabby exhausted self through that.

Sigh…..answers on a postcard please.

Till the next time……

Teams & Tantrums

Rebecca turned 23 on Thursday. Many of you still may think of her as the “little girl” from the trip reports, as do I, but time waits for no man and she has, without any regard for my feelings on the matter, gone and turned into a fully grown human.

It was, of course, frustrating that the best we could manage was a brief socially distant giving of presents in her back yard, but this week I shall be doing all I can to refrain from moaning like a big baby so instead, I shall be grateful for that and for the fact that as a family we are so far relatively unscathed in this crisis.

We got her a Nintendo Switch with Animal Crossing which is a throwback to the game she and Emily played a lot as children. Emily bought herself the exact same set up so they can now “visit each other’s islands” and there has been group chat about gifting fruit and ladders. I don’t know what that is but if it takes Emily’s mind off the fact that she can’t see her boyfriend still then it’s a good thing.

In the continuing search for positives, the four day week was very welcome. Despite the fact that all I have done for the last couple of months is work and walk the dogs, I am very tired. Not having to sit on my laptop for work all day on Friday was a joy and instead, I could sit all day on my laptop looking for news on things that may affect our holiday.

The highlight of my work week (unless my employer is reading this) was finding out that in Microsoft Teams (for those who might not know, this is a software programme that allows for online collaboration and video chat etc) you can upload custom backgrounds that can be used when you are on video calls. It means you don’t have to worry about where you are sat in the house and what folks might see behind you.

I was supposed to add to my library a range of branded company ones but instead, I just chose a load of my favourite WDW photos from over the years and loaded those in. Now, when I’m sat on two-hour video calls that should have been an email, at least my colleagues can marvel at the night time shot of World Showcase or my slightly blurry castle photo that I am sat in front of.

Indeed on one call yesterday, a colleague with a similar WDW obsession and I spent a good portion of the meeting discussing exactly from where I took the shot of World Showcase. It was time well spent.

It was this photo.

Here are some of the other backgrounds I will be discussing boring stuff in front of in the coming weeks. They will give folks something to look at as we inevitably circle though the unavoidable shite like….

“Who just joined?”

“Can you see my screen?”

“You’re on mute!”

“We’ll just give it a couple more minutes for people to join” despite the fact that I had the courtesy to turn up on fecking time.

“Sorry, you broke up a bit then….what did you say”?

“He just dropped off I think……”

You will know, due to it being a fantastic photo, that I did not take the one above.

Or that one…..

The shame of it is that I will be sat in front of these glorious backdrops blocking the view, but frustratingly, it is a condition of getting paid that I actually attend meetings.

To capture my current thinking on if and when we may ever see these things again, let alone in August, I would say my expectation of being able to do our holiday as planned has worsened since last week. That isn’t saying a lot as my “likelihood rating” was almost zero. You all knew I couldn’t resist papping on about this again, right?

Despite Virgin trying to make plans to stick around for a while, unless you want to fly from Gatwick or of course unless you are one of the 3,500 staff affected, that slight ray of hope seems almost irrelevant as the overall situation seems to be worsening on a daily basis.

Disney Springs and City Walk are both opening up in the coming weeks with very limited capacity and lots of new rules, which could be the first step on the journey back to normality. The fear, of course, is that a second wave ensues and the US is back to square one very quickly. To be honest, I’m not sure “second wave” is the correct term as I don’t think they are through the first wave yet. So whilst that and news the Shanghai are also opening their park soon is in one way welcome, my hopes still aren’t high or indeed existent.

It’s clear from comments made by senior Disney folks at a recent shareholder meeting that they are working very hard on how to make things safe(r) and how they can get some folks back onto property anytime soon. That’s slightly encouraging but I am still in a big man-baby sulk that my 50th trip is in serious jeopardy and just because that is a trivial concern in the midst of a global pandemic, spreading death and destruction upon the human race, it won’t stop me, in some small way, stamping my feet a bit every now and again. Unfortunately for all of you, that tends to be here every Sunday.

There was news yesterday that it seems the wearing of masks/face coverings will be mandatory when the parks reopen. I’ve seen stuff from some airlines too, suggesting they will be required on flights. Freddie aside, I don’t see a mask as too much of an issue on a flight for a few hours but they are less than ideal in a park all day.

All in all, I’m very much in the headspace of just trying to figure out what the best outcome will be of the holiday not going ahead at the end of August. Can we reschedule, how much cash will we lose, will things even be noticeably better later in the year? And for that reason, I am more than a little sad. To reassure you that I’m not a one-trick pony, I have other emotions too of course, such as……

If you or anyone you know were involved in the conga or a rendition of Oops upside your head that were reported during VE Day street parties on Friday, you’re an idiot and you are contributing to people dying and this thing dragging on for longer than it needs to. The fact that you are bored and have had enough of the lockdown would seem, to an intelligent person, a reason to keep to the advice rather than break it. I understand that government advice has all the consistency of blancmange but we are able to make our own judgements and you should strive for good ones.

See, I set out on this post trying my best not to moan about a holiday and in a few hundred words I have not just failed, I have ventured into berating people I don’t know and have never met. This is what happens when a shallow knobhead like me can’t get his holiday.

Till the next time……

Black and Hacked Dogs

Another week, another chin added to the collection. They now ripple, like my moods, ever-changing in the bizarre existence we find ourselves in.

I think it’s fair to say for one reason or another, the overall mood at Mkingdon Towers dipped slightly this week. It is inevitable I suppose with so much uncertainty, worry and added to all that, recently a bereavement. Having already heard of the sad passing of two extended family members on Louise’s side of the family since lockdown, a few days ago Louise’s Aunty passed away too.

It wasn’t, as far as we are aware, Covid related, but the fact that Louise couldn’t console her Mum when the news came through certainly was virus related. It was very upsetting of course. Louise struggled with that as it only added to the obvious worries about her elderly Mum who has been alone since this whole thing kicked off. Add to that, the fact that Louise is having a tough time at work and I know she’s feeling low at the moment.

I have to admit that I too have been feeling a little “down in the dumps” for no specific reason. It is probably just a combination of everything that is and isn’t going on. Acknowledging my personality traits, and on top of the predictable worries everyone has right now, I understand this, for me, is also about a lack of certainty, unanswered questions and an inability to “get things sorted” until time passes, and I don’t even know how much time that will be.

I don’t share my low mood that to garner sympathy, more to admit to it and suggest it’s probably normal and OK to have ups and downs at the moment. I’m no mental health expert but I suppose it’s better that way, rather than bottling everything up which is my trademark.

Onto more trivial (and no doubt easier to read) matters, the eternal sway between the possible, various holiday outcomes, last week brought some news. I don’t know whether it was good or bad news, but there was some news.

For clarity, just to keep a track of my thinking as time passes, right now, my expectations and hopes of being able to do any holiday at the end of August rate at low to zero.

I think it was on Thursday when I watched the Governor of Florida outline the plans to “re-open” the state. There were no huge surprises in his announcements, but despite the fact that I should have known better, there were some surprises in the comments that were cropping up on the Facebook live. I’ll summarise them as “Freedom, liberty, I own a lot of guns, it’s just like flu and/or a hoax and I need a haircut”.

Phase 1 of the re-opening basically just reinstated elective surgeries and allowed shops and restaurants to open at 25% capacity. All we can do now is watch what happens as restrictions are lifted but as I say, I am not hopeful of our yearned for trip being realised. Whether Florida gets out of Phase 1 or needs to lockdown again is the first thing to watch for and then we can maybe start to think about any moves to later phases. With theme parks at best in phase 3, the rumoured June plans to re-open them in some capacity seems fanciful at this stage.

Layer over that Virgin Atlantic teetering on the edge of collapse and the very bleak prospect of no holiday this year might just be the root cause of some of that glum stuff I mentioned earlier. I fully acknowledge the silliness of that, but, for me, these trips are an important anchor and focus around which I function. A Virgin collapse (that would be a great name for a band) would bring the added bonus of probably losing the money paid out for our flights and longer-term if Virgin cease to exist then the prospect of any Trans Atlantic holiday in the future also looks unlikely. Wow, I am a fountain of joy and positivity this week aren’t I?

I should count myself lucky really as Oli has suffered a much worse fate than maybe not getting a holiday. He has had half a haircut. Having not been attended to since early winter, his locks were flowing in all the wrong ways and directions and he was struggling with the warm weather. So a combination of Louise and Emily, over a series of days has made him cooler, but only in temperature, not necessarily in looks. The clippers we normally use have long since been in their prime and hacking with the scissors had to be resorted to.

As you can see, he’s looked better. He does feel better though as the day after this was done, out on our walk he was charging round with Bean in a way not seen for months. He must have felt about a stone lighter!

He will not let us touch, never mind brush or cut the fur on his legs so as you can see he has these very dapper bushy legs when compared to the rest of his body. At some point, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to get him to the groomers and make him look presentable.

Ending on a much needed upbeat note, the relative gloom and doom were lifted greatly yesterday when we had a socially distant visit from Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. Being able to see them in the flesh, and interact and play with Freddie, even from a distance, brought welcome smiles to our faces. We quickly developed a game where he threw pebbles at me across the garden. He is at that stage that each time we do see him, the mere fact that he has a whole range of new words in his vocabulary brings an involuntary smile to our faces. If nothing else, being able to do that normally and safely at some point in the future is something to look forward to.

If you got to the end of it, apologies for the “black dog” tone to most of this week’s ramble. It is what it is and no doubt next week will be back to normal, with me just moaning about stuff in my usual sunny manner.

Till the next time…..

Beach And Moan

It has become clear to me now that each week I shall just be papping on about our upcoming holiday and doing big baby wah wahs about the fact that it might not happen.

I’m sure you came to that realisation more quickly than I did.

Just a few short weeks ago I was very bullishly saying that there was no way that stuff would be locked down at the end of August. At the time, that was five months away. Now, as we round the corner of four months away, my hope is receding more quickly than my hairline did.

As I said a couple of weeks ago it’s the uncertainty that I don’t deal well with. For someone who revels in planning eating choices 180 days in advance all this “up in the air” stuff doesn’t sit well.

Right now my thinking is this. I think there is a 60/40 chance that non-essential travel to the US will be allowed. I think the parks will be open to some extent and crucially restaurants will be open with social distancing restrictions.

The parks seem to be gearing up for some sort of June opening, but it may be for Florida residents initially, then US guests and finally international ones, and I have no clue as to how quickly or slowly those changes will come.

However, there are a million things to consider.

  1. Even if travel by plane is allowed, considering I seem to get a cold every time I fly, do I really want to have us stuck in a metal tube of people for eight hours?
  2. Even if the parks are open, they may not be for international visitors.
  3. If they are, capacity may be very reduced, wait times very high and generally the experience may not be a good one.

It turns out there were three things to consider. I suppose the other thing to consider more generally is that I and nobody else really has a clue what the state of play will be in four months time.

With each passing day and more importantly Trump press conference, the US may have been wiped out by one his medical recommendations long before we have to worry if the Olive Garden is open.

One scenario I have percolating is where flights are operational and that removes our option to get a refund or a free move to new dates and therefore we (concerns about infectious metal tubes aside) would still need to fly or lose the cash, but the parks, for one reason or another aren’t doable.

What would we do then? Well, we’d save a heap of cash on theme park tickets and staying on-site at Universal for a start. My thinking is that we’d probably do a trip similar to the one we did in (I think) 2011. It was a road trip of sorts, starting in the Keys, then Naples, Vero and ending up in Orlando. Another twist on this winding road is that Universal “could” be open to on-site guests and that would include us, so we might still be able to do that. Complex, innit?

Should we need to do a different, non-park based trip then I am, semi-consciously constructing an itinerary. It is very early days, but to break up the trip I am thinking multiple locations, in a higher standard of accommodation than we may usually enjoy due to the savings mentioned before. Maybe both coasts? I don’t think we would venture south…..(not in the Alan Partridge sense) for a couple of reasons –

  1. It’s a long drive for us all but especially Freddie
  2. Miami and the south of Florida seems to be suffering more than other parts right now.

Vero may be an option so if anyone reading this has DVC points this wish to rent, stand by your beds, and the other side of the state anywhere from Clearwater down to Siesta Key would be the other option.

You know what’s coming now don’t you? For those of you that have done more of this beach stuff than we have, let me have your thoughts and recommendations, please. It may of course not happen, either because we don’t go at all, or we go and the parks are viable. Just typing that range of options gives me anxiety. Oh, certainty where art thou?

The other serious consideration for the non-park version of a trip may seem silly but, if you’ve followed any of our trips over the years it shouldn’t be. The only thing that stops us returning from holiday looking like this….

is the fact that we do a lot of steps most days around the parks. Should our days be based around the beach instead then I really fear for my weight gain capabilities. For the sake of my wardrobe, health and the person sat next to me on the flight home, if it comes to it, there will need to be some serious exertion during the days to counter this. Just being in lockdown is doing nothing for my waistline other than expanding it so the struggle is always real for me in that regard.

Beach holidays are not my first choice. You may have spotted this over the years as we tend to go to WDW! However, Louise loves it, and after being locked down for so long just being able to be together would be lovely and as much as Tom might be bored quite quickly, with Freddie to play with even his tolerance for doing not a lot may be raised.

If the season is still going we could take in a baseball game. Are there any other sporting events we might consider?

We’ve had some of our most lovely times in Florida during “beachy times” so this option would not be the disaster my big baby whinging is perhaps indicating I think it might be. We are of course lucky to be able to take these trips and a holiday in this form would be lovely, relaxing and one which would create a whole load of lovely memories.

In all the struggles currently ongoing, this isn’t one worthy of however many words I have just wasted on it, but, I spend the rest of the week concerning myself with all the other stuff as my tweeting testifies, so on Sundays, on my blog, I allow myself some self-indulgence.

I’d love to hear your current thinking on your upcoming trip, especially if you’re due to go at a similar time to us and what plans you are formulating if the parks are not the option they usually are.

Stay safe and stay indoors….

Till the next time…..

New Dates and Doubts

In the recent scheme of inactivity, this week has been a right old hive of occurrences with some things actually happening outside of work, dog walking and going to the recycling bins 412 times a day.

The week began with Louise having a high temperature on Monday night, along with aches and general unwellness. This meant of course that she had to stay home from work as they have enough unwell people in the hospital already apparently. The symptoms were mild but the rules are the rules. By Wednesday she had been contacted to attend a COVID-19 test at a local health centre, which she did on Thursday. Yesterday she had the call to say that the result was thankfully negative and she will be back in work tomorrow. She feels better now so clearly it was just a “run of the mill” bout of illness and that test has saved her having to spend another seven days away from work.

In other COVID related news, after much thought and deliberation, Rebecca and Tom have decided to postpone their wedding until 2021. They had moved it already from late May until early July this year, but they felt that was still too risky, and the countdown to the date would be dominated with talk of the lockdown, with lots of stress and worry attached. Hopefully, 2021 will behave itself a lot better than 2020 is doing and they will have a trouble-free time before their big day.

I think it’s the right thing to do, for what it’s worth. The lockdown may well be a little more relaxed by early July this year but there is absolutely no guarantee that wedding venues would be open by then and with a good number of more mature guests the last thing they would want is for anyone to be concerned about attending their celebrations. Dates for next year were, as you can imagine, being snapped up very quickly with lots of couples in the same position no doubt so to bag a prime July Saturday was good going and a small positive to take from what is a rubbish situation.

With the important stuff done, thoughts and this post can turn to more trivial stuff. On the subject of our late August holiday, my thinking veers from certainty of it going ahead to dark realisation that there isn’t a chance. At the moment I am definitely in the latter camp, thinking that there is so much that needs to change in order for it to be unaffected that there is little chance.

Watching what appears to be a car crash happening in slow motion in the US right now, I am finding it hard to be positive about our chances. I was looking at pictures of Florida beaches re-opening on the same day that the state recorded it’s highest number of new cases in a day with my jaw sitting on the floor at the sheer stupidity of it all. If this sort of things continue I’m not too sure there will be much of a state or country to visit by August.

I am already formulating rough plans for what new dates we might try to reschedule for. We are lucky in a way that we are not confined to school holidays so should we need to the hopefully quieter autumn/early winter dates might be the best option. In fact, the compulsive planner in me has November in mind so that we can experience the Christmas stuff in the parks without encountering the seasonal crowds. Of course, that is assuming things will be “normal” even by that time.

Maybe I’m just being too pessimistic and you can remind me of that when we’re sat at the airport in late August. I hope you can.

On a more pleasant note, our voracious appetite for stuff to watch lead us to an unforeseen gem this week. Disney+ provided us with a night of escapism in the shape of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings.

It is, of course, a very long advert for Disney’s wedding services, but if you like to see the Disney parks and lose yourself for a bit then this is for you. At one point Louise was googling how we could apply for a vow renewal, assuming that if you get on the programme such things are funded by the programme-makers. I suspect we are not quite glamorous enough for their selection criteria. Well, I certainly am not.

We continue to miss folks we can’t be with, and with at least another three weeks of this stuff to go, it’s becoming harder. It’s lovely then to see photos and videos from Rebecca and the latest seem to suggest that Freddie has become a teenager since all this started.

I hope you are all finding ways to muddle through this as best you can and that these weekly ramblings provide a few seconds of distraction, if only by marvelling at its very low quality and lack of any value whatsoever.

Till the next time…….

Ramblings From A Glass Case Of Emotion

Everyone OK? If you’re anything like me you may be starting to feel a bit odd. At the risk of making this all about me, I do feel a little strange. See how I asked how you were just so I could launch into a rant about me and how I feel?

I’m a weird human cocktail of intermittent lethargy, anger, worry, bouts of industrious activity and frustration. At the same time, I have to admit to preferring working from home, at least for now. I guess as time goes on this groundhog day thing may become a bit of a thing. I suppose you could say….

Physically too, I feel pretty useless. All I see online and on our road is an endless stream of sweaty people exercising and working out, whereas I take the dogs on a thirty-minute stroll and I need a lie-down. I’ve been doing the odd ten minutes here and there on the rowing machine kidding myself that this will burn off my isolation diet.

I am eating well, but “well” in that sentence has the same meaning it does when someone tells you that you “look well”. We all know that means you’ve packed some timber on and my diet is currently delivering on that count.

If the internet is reading this, I’ve seen enough work out videos now, thank you.

As evidence of my distance from normality, I regrouted our shower floor on Friday. I had to order the kit I needed online several days earlier, watch some YouTube videos on how the hell you do it and then inevitably still do it wrong. These are strange times indeed if I am seeking out DIY tasks.

My worries are many and varied, and in no particular order and only focussing on my immediate domestic ones, include Emily, who is incredibly fed up with being stuck at home with us and not being able to see her boyfriend, whilst at the same time shouting at folks through the window who are out and about, who she knows are potentially lengthening the lockdown. I worry about Rebecca, Tom and Freddie, more out of missing them, and not having a hands-on relationship with Freddie is heartbreaking when he is too young to have any clue why we aren’t with him a couple of times a week as we normally are. The selfish worry that he might “forget us” is real.

I worry a lot about Louise working in hospital every day and of course the more elderly members of our family who must be lonely and bored out of their minds.

I know countless others have many more worries in both number and magnitude, but I’m playing the deck I was dealt for better or worse.

At the very bottom of my worry list is, of course, our trip in August. Sure, it’s trivial and not at all important in the scheme of things, but I’m allowed to give it some thought. Will it go ahead? If it does, what restrictions and procedures will be in place? If it doesn’t go ahead can we re-book without losing the family fortune (about £7.50) on dates that we can all do?

My anger, well, I won’t go into that here. Have a look at my Twitter feed if you want to get a feel for that. I’m losing followers there more quickly than Boris Johnson is getting through Sudoku puzzles, but I need to vent and Twitter is getting it.

With no end in sight to the lockdown (for all the right reasons), I suppose it is easy to fall into a bit of a mental tizzy, but as we have ten Hillsborough tragedies happening every day currently, plus all the care home deaths not being reported, feeling a bit weird is a small price to pay as we live through a proper real-world catastrophe. This far into a lockdown might be the time that people really get fed up of the strictness, as evidenced on my dog walk yesterday when the local school playing fields looked like a Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury, but hopefully, in the coming weeks, the benefits of what we’re doing now will start to show. We need it to, as currently, our stats are the worst in Europe, which normally only happens once a year at Eurovision.

I really don’t want these posts to become a place of negativity and preaching, but please remember, those poor souls dying today were infected around three weeks ago. I do wonder why government sources are starting to talk about curves being flattened and infection rates slowing. That is not the message people need to hear. Things will still get worse before they get better and as much as we might need to hear some positive news as a reward for our (lack of) actions, please don’t get complacent.

I hope my binge list helped a bit last week. Do go back and read the comments on both Facebook and the blog itself as others threw in their own suggestions. We’re burning through box sets more quickly than NHS staff are going through PPE if they are lucky enough to have any. As an example, on Friday we stumbled across Brassic (Sky One on demand), enjoyed it, and boshed the whole first series in a night.

It seems that the Sky Movie channels are running all of the Star Wars films on an endless loop and I’ve watched a lot of those in bits and pieces. Similarly, there’s a channel showing all the Harry Potter films. There are hours to be spent right there.

Yesterday felt more like a Sunday than every other Sunday ever didn’t it? Our Saturday that felt like a Sunday was brightened immeasurably by a socially distant visit from Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. They were out on their daily walk and spent a little while sat at the end of our front path whilst Freddie played with the fine collection of stones in our front garden. Having only seen him via video recently, of course, as children of his age do, he had seemingly grown up relatively speaking, with new words in his expanding speech repertoire. It was lovely to engage with him at least visually and from a safe distance and get the chance to make him laugh and him us. We miss him a lot.

So we stumble to the end of a blog post seemingly without theme or point, and nothing is new there, right? I suppose the best I can rescue from the wreckage of the previous few paragraphs is that it’s probably OK to feel a bit odd, low, lonely, worried, angry or lost. For those of you like me, who thrive on certainty, plans, structure and order, having very little of all of that is not an easy adjustment to make.

My response seems to be that unlike 99% of the internet, I’m not exercising for 23 hours a day, cooking, learning a language or crafting an extension on the back of the house out of spit and cat hair. I’m just sitting around, trying to remember what it’s like to wear a pair of jeans and wondering if my car will start whenever I drive it again. I hope you are finding ways to get through this as best you can.

Stay safe, stay at home and see you next week.

Till the next time…….

Binge Baby Binge

Let’s get my sanctimonious, unqualified preaching out of the way first.

As this lockdown continues it’s going to get really hard to keep to the rules. The weather will improve, the boredom will increase and the temptation to soften the adherence will be huge. I don’t want to bring any unwanted negativity to your Sunday, but all I will say is that based on the very few snippets Louise has shared about what is going on in hospital right now, please gird your loins, embrace the tedium and stay at home. It’s hard to see a tangible benefit of doing so, as we’ll never know who didn’t die because you did the right thing, so just do it and believe that will happen.

It’s easy to become numb to the numbers you hear on the news when at other times any event which killed hundreds in a day would be seen quite rightly as a catastrophe. Again, not wanting to darken anyone’s mood, those numbers will, in reality, be higher than those reported, as deaths in care homes (as an example) aren’t being included in those figures. Sorry, just stay at home.

We are fairly big bingers in normal times, and that has increased as other options have been removed so let me try to help with some suggestions of stuff to watch. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, so you may be aware, but here we go –

We have just finished series 3 of Ozark. That is excellent and has got better with each series so do try that. It stars and is directed by Jason Bateman, and on that subject, Arrested Development is a cracker too.

We are long time Breaking Bad superfans, so we are of course currently watching Better Call Saul, an excellent spin-off and one with a different style and pace to most other Netflix stuff.

Other things that you may have missed from the recent past include The Umbrella Academy, Daybreak, Goliath (Amazon Prime), Inside Number 9 and Schitt’s Creek. However, if you have got to today and still haven’t watched what was probably the first “binge-worthy” series, Breaking Bad, then now is that time. We have never experienced anything that demanded you watched the next episode at the expense of sleep and real-life happening like this did. It is perfect lockdown viewing.

If you really want to mop up some time, then you could treat yourself to The West Wing.

That one isn’t on Netflix but is on Amazon Prime, and I think you need to pay for it. A cheaper solution would be to just buy the box set off Amazon or eBay. You will find a second-hand box set for not very much money. Just wipe it down when it arrives. You will fall in love with Martin Sheen and wish that you were watching reality rather than fiction. It oozes class, quality and superb acting.

For something along similar lines, but less serious, The Thick Of It is glorious and Malcolm Tucker will become your new hero. That one has some spectacular language in it, so that’s one for when the kids are in bed.

We have followed the herd and started to watch Tiger King. It is gloriously weird and almost unbelievable but entertaining nonetheless. It reminds me in a way of Making A Murderer, which is another Netflix series to get into.

I have now watched all three of the available Imagineering Story on Disney+ and cannot recommend that enough. The Mandalorian is on our list to watch when a viewing slot crops up in our busy schedule.

There will be others I have forgotten, but I will offer those up in the weeks to come as they return to my memory. You might need them. Of course, if you have some suggestions, leave them in the comments for the benefit of others too. It can be a virtual library of stuff to occupy ourselves with.

Don’t worry that all this watching will affect my athletic frame. I am also finding time to do some rowing (we have a machine, not a lake) and I walk the dogs every day too so my six-pack is safe. We also played a game of virtual bingo last night on Zoom with friends and family.

I hate bingo, driven by the years I sat through it when Louise was a club singer and more recently on the odd occasion that Mustard do one of those clubs, but it was lovely to see some familiar faces again and it passed a couple of hours.

Emily is missing her boyfriend a lot which is understandable, and despite regular video contact, to say we are missing Rebecca, Tom and Freddie is an understatement. It’s very hard not to have them here on a regular basis and watch Freddie continue to grow, develop and more importantly make us smile as he always does.

I have trimmed my own hair this week. Not an onerous task as you might imagine, but still, the fear of running those clippers over my head was real, but thankfully, nothing disastrous happened and my reverse Mohican remains in fine fettle.

Another highlight of the week was trying to unblock one of Louise’s Mum’s outside drains. Getting elbow deep in unpleasant stuff passed another hour. It wasn’t successful so I assume there is a dead body, hopefully, animal, or some huge stone so far down the pipe that it cannot be reached and it will need proper attention when possible. It comes to something when DIY tasks are seen as a decent way to spend some time.

I hope you are all well and continue to be so. The best way to increase those odds is, yep, stay at home.

Till the next time…….

Lockdown Life

Thank you for all your comments, messages and well wishes last week. I am much better now. The cough is slowly subsiding and the only remaining symptoms seem to be that I have become 87 and need to be in bed by 9.30. I literally can’t keep my eyes open. The tiredness is real. A walk of the dogs has me spent and breathless so I won’t be posting one of those “inspirational” home workout videos anytime soon.

I’d rate my illness level at about 7 out of 10 compared to all other forms of illness and flus I have experienced. Two days were touching an 8, with most others being a 6 or 7. There appears to be no tangible end in sight for the country as yet and indeed I think the next few weeks will see things get a lot worse before they get better. I am still annoyed and frustrated at the lack of testing and the preparedness of the NHS, but I’m not going to soapbox that here.

Rebecca is recovered but now Tom has the symptoms, which is not surprising. He has had a high temperature and a cough for a few days. I guess it is inevitable that if you put several people in the same house as someone who has symptoms, they will too.

Having said that, neither Emily or Louise have had any tangible signs of the virus. Louise has had a feeling of a temperature from time to time, but nothing she would consider out of the ordinary. She is, like many, convinced she had the thing about three weeks before I did, as she had a week of struggling to breathe with a terrible chest. Hopefully, an antibody test will be available to soon to give us all a clue.

As weird as things currently are, I have to say, I am not yet missing the commute. I’m sure as the weeks and months go by I will yearn for my usual three hours a day in the car, but right now, my work-life balance actually exists and I feel less “murdery” after a day’s work and the drive home.

We’ve been occupying ourselves as best we can. My daily dog walk is now something to look forward to, rather than a chore I used to dread. That is for two reasons. Firstly, it’s my one time out of the house every day and a token nod towards any form of exercise and secondly, I usually walk the dogs after my commute home and recently in sub-zero temperatures and sideways rain, so the better weather and lack of the drive home has improved the task no end.

We have been watching a lot of stuff of course and if you aren’t yet watching The Imagineering Story on Disney+ I can’t help you. That is right in my sweet spot and ticks all of my Disney geek boxes. It has also, if possible, elevated Roy Disney to a new level of hero status in our household. He never gets the credit he deserves, other than from Emily, who cried last night when his management of the Magic Kingdom construction and subsequent death was covered.

It was Louise’s birthday yesterday. Obviously, it was a strange one but hopefully, we made it as nice as it could be in the circumstances. There was a lot of relaxing, a Zoom quiz in the evening hosted by my brother and sister-in-law and a huge amount of takeaway Indian food. In a gesture of huge irony, I had a couple of Coronas.

Rebecca’s wedding is now pretty much re-arranged for early July. All the suppliers were able to move with us apart from the DJ who we will need to replace, and all we can do now is hope that by that time wedding venues are open and we have some sort of ability to go out of the house again.

These are very strange times and right at the bottom of every list of priorities are upcoming holidays. I have no idea if the world will have returned to any form of normality by late August or indeed if the airline industry will still exist, but all I can do is this….

and try to pretend that everything will be fine by then. Of course, should the gimp in the White House get his way, the US will be re-opened at Easter and annihilated by June, which would render our trip null and void.

In the spirit of trying to keep some sense of normality in these weird times, I have continued to book our ADRs, and I’ll share here how we’ve done, knowing all the while that they may not happen at all. I don’t know if talking about something as trivial as where we might eat is appropriate with everything going on, so if you aren’t in the right place to read that sort of stuff, now’s the time to pull the ripcord.

Overall, we did OK and got what we wanted. The major changes are around my actual birthday with California Grill not offering any times that worked for us, but in a way, it may have worked out for the best. I’ll come to that shortly.

Our first ADR is for our first day fittingly enough. We are being bold and assuming that at the end of the magical first day in Magic Kingdom we will be awake enough to do Ohana. I have booked it nice and early at 5.35, so we should be able to make it that far. Should we really be “on it” who knows we may spend some time down on the beach after dinner watching the sunset. It’s funny how simple things like this sound so appealing right now.

We are eating off-site for the next few days at the likes of Teak Neighbourhood Grill and Bahama Breeze before going to one of our traditional regulars at Animal Kingdom on day five. Yak & Yeti, at an OAP-tastic early hour of 4.30, is booked. We might do Rivers of Light, or we may not. This is just part of my flexible, devil may care approach to trip planning.

This brings us to day six and my birthday. So the original plan was to have a character breakfast, do some World Showcase and then have dinner at California Grill, ending with a balcony viewing of the fireworks. The breakfast was straight forward. Cape May Cafe is secured, with the added bonus of facilitating parking at the Beach Club rather than Epcot’s main car park. However, California Grill was only offering times that wouldn’t work with our plans. Neither 5.30 or 9.30 suited us. A 5.30 reservation would mean us having to head back to the villa around 3pm to allow for showers and makeup with me sat on the couch waiting for everyone to get ready. This is not how I wish to spend my birthday. The later 9.30 slot would be too late for Freddie.

This forced a bit of a re-think of the whole day, and whilst not having the “glamour” of Cali Grill, in a way I feel better about the new plan. It’s a traditional one and due to that is tried and tested.

Breakfast remains at Cape May Cafe at 10am. We shall then wander into Epcot just after World Showcase opens and spend a relaxed day touring the pavilions. Rather than then leave the park and waste a large part of the day driving and waiting for folks to get ready, we shall remain in Epcot, with dinner now booked for La Hacienda de San Angel at 7.30. We ate there for my birthday the year before last and really enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can secure a table seat again and we can play it by ear whether we watch the fireworks from the restaurant or find a spot outside.

The idea is that we have a day without too much queuing or stressing about getting on stuff or the logistics of being places at set times and just enjoy being in one of my favourite bits of the planet.

We are then at Univeral for the next few days, so there is no need for ADR bookings. We return with a bang on day 11 with a booking at Sanaa for all of the breads. I’ve gone for 6pm, hoping to get there a little early, see some animals and then eat.

Day 12 saw another ADR failure I’m sad to say. Homecoming was the ambition, but the only slots were late in the evening so again, I have simplified things, and kept us in the park of the day rather than travelling out to eat.

After a break of what must be almost twenty years, we are returning to the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom as that is where we are spending the day. Freddie was very much in my thoughts as I think he will love it. It also gives us another shot at Rivers of Light if we haven’t done it at this point.

Day 13 sees us back at Epcot and an ADR for what is becoming a regular and a firm favourite. Via Napoli is booked for some fine pizza at 6.40. Hopefully, we shall emerge from the experience feeling overly full into the glorious embrace of World Showcase at dusk.

With that, we are done. The remaining days are scheduled to be off-site eateries and then we come home, assuming we actually get to go in the first place.

Of course, current uncertainty is robbing us planners of much of the joy of the build up to the trip. It is a problem that deserves hardly a mention or consideration in the context of what is going on, but, it’s OK to be a little sad about it. We have the capacity to be sad about multiple things at the same time on many different levels. If reading this nonsense distracts you from the proper stuff for a few minutes then that’s good.

I don’t wish to add to anyone’s woes, and I’m not saying the world is ending, but it appears to be snowing at the moment here in Bolton, at the end of March…….

Till the next time…….

My Corona

As far as I know, I got the coronavirus last week. With no testing, of course, I can’t say for sure, but I had the classic symptoms of a dry cough and a high temperature so I will assume that I did. I thought it would be of interest to document my week for anyone who may suffer the same fate in future. I caveat everything with my absolute lack of knowledge about my condition. This may have been something else and I guess I’ll never know unless I get it at some point in the future.

If you can’t be bothered to read the below, and I don’t blame you, just take one message from this.

YOU DO NOT WANT THIS DISEASE.

For the love of whichever God you prefer, follow the advice, stay at home whenever possible. The thought of any of my more elderly relatives getting this is terrifying, and as much as you might very well ride this out, if you directly or indirectly infect somebody who won’t, that is a bit more important.

Today is Mother’s Day, and if you don’t live with your Mum, the best gift you can give her is to NOT visit her today.

I wrote this at random times as this week went on, so I apologise for the illness impaired quality. It’s a car crash of mixed tenses and half-formed thoughts. Having re-read it, some of it is all over the place but I’ve left it as is, as a warning to anyone taking this lightly. This is how badly your thought process can work if you get this thing. It also demonstrates how quickly things have changed in just one week.

Friday

I decided to work from home and offered the same option to all my team even though the government and company advice wasn’t to do so. I felt a bit crap and with no face to face meetings to do that day, thought it better to be safe than sorry. I had no cough and no temperature as far as I could tell and pretty much carried on with life as normal.

Saturday

No real symptoms as yet. I wasn’t feeling 100% but that could of course have been for any number of reasons. I was heading down hill a bit as I unusally felt the need to have an hour in bed in the late afternoon before heading out to a Mustard gig. Being very conscious of the virus I kept myself to myself, didn’t buy a drink from the bar, concerned about the diligence of the bar staff’s hand washing and instead drank my bottle of water. I felt fine all evening with no corona symptoms at all apart from some mild brain fog towards the end of the night which led to a few less than perfect notes. But hey, that’s no different to any other gig.

However, upon arriving home I had a cup of tea and then took the dogs out the back for their pre-bed time wees and poos and whilst outside I suddenly felt dreadful. I began to violently shake, feeling incredibly cold and went to bed where I didn’t sleep for a good few hours as I just couldn’t get warm. I fell asleep in the early hours for a little while and woke up mid-morning feeling pretty dreadful.

Sunday

The cough had appeared and when I took my temperature today, for the first time it had gone over 38 degrees. At all times prior to this, it had been 37. I had to nip next door to help my Dad with something. I was very mindful that this wasn’t ideal and I took something to open doors without me touching any surfaces and washed my hands as I entered their house. I was taking paracetamol and Ibuprofen every four hours and now as it came to the end of those four hour periods my temperature returned with a vengeance and I felt pretty bad. At around 11pm I HAD to go to bed as I felt so bad. It took a while to get to sleep, but I did and then slept until about 4am.

Monday

I was downstairs popping pills and drinking coffee at an early hour when Rebecca messaged me with a picture of her own temperature reading of 39 degrees. Clearly, working in a nursery, she needed to stay at home. At this point, for the first time, I went to the NHS 111 web site and it confirmed that we both should stay at home for at least 7 days. What I couldn’t find was any advice for family members in a household where one member has the symptoms but they do not. Should they also stay home? I had to resort to asking Twitter for help, which, being frank was piss poor. There seemed to be a huge black hole around detailed help and advice.

I felt a little rough, but as my job is not a manual one I did feel OK to work so set out with the intention of working from home.

I managed to get through the day operating at less than my usual 1000% work ethic. Towards the end of the day, the government updated (created) their advice that family members should also stay at home if one person has symptoms. Whilst it wasn’t welcome news at least there was clarity.

Louise also had no symptoms and Emily was doing her own isolation up in her loft bedroom trying in vain to avoid two weeks away from her boyfriend! Louise did have a very bad chest infection/cough about two weeks earlier and she was beginning to wonder if that had been “it” and this was why I wasn’t infecting her.

It was clearer at this stage what an absolutely catastrophic effect this was going to have on the economy and the country. Pubs, restaurants, football and anything but a supermarket are all going to be losing huge amounts of income. With the advice that “at risk” people should avoid social contact for up to 12 weeks, this cast doubt over Rebecca’s wedding date on the 23rd of May, so we attempted to contact the venue to see what our options were.

Some binge watching happened in the evening and as was the case last night, as it got later I felt a lot worse. I had been awake since 4am of course so at around 10.30 I had to go to bed.

Tuesday

I slept better I think. I must have been asleep by 11.30 and didn’t wake until around 6.30. I awoke feeling like I desperately needed my pills, so I went downstairs to hunt out the paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Everything ached, and I had a serious headache.

I spent some time on social media, trying to get my head around what was happening and of course failed. I read about something called super spreaders, who it seems are all the bell ends on the news and Facebook still going to pubs and concerts.

I also watched a video sent to me by a Florida resident (thanks Steven) of a deserted WDW. It was strange to watch it, not knowing when it would re-open and if our August trip would be on.

This morning was the worst I had felt so far. It felt like the fever had gone up a notch, with earache, headache and entire body ache now being in play. It was also around this time that I read some stuff about Ibuprofen perhaps not being advisable with coronavirus. Now, because I couldn’t get tested, so didn’t know whether this was THE virus or just some other thing, and having got the news from Twitter about Ibuprofen, I made the conclusion that healthcare seems to be some sort of lottery and in years to come, surviving generations will be studying history to see how not to die. Seriously, where is the co-ordinated, official communication on this shit?

During the evening Louise facetimed with two ex-colleagues, community nurses and their experiences were truly terrifying. Of course, they HAVE to go and see all their usual patients, even those with symptoms, however, they have zero PPE (protective gear) and neither the patient or the nurse can be tested. This really is a scandal and a massive failure in preparation for something that’s been coming for months. My ill health was, at this stage, adding to my exasperation and despair.

I collapsed into bed early at around 9.15 with a headache that cannot be described. I also had a lot of neck pain, a fever and a cough. I was cartwheeling downhill quickly. I managed to sleep for two hours, waking up with a head pumping with the beat of my bloodstream. I was some time from my next pills and this upset me greatly. I went downstairs and watched all sorts of crap on TV whilst being outstandingly ill.

This was proper tackle. I tried to go back to bed around 3am, but from nowhere my cough went into overdrive and my fever was causing minor hallucinations. Having kept Louise awake for a nice amount of time, I gave up and went downstairs again. Back to bed at 8.30am for two hours.

Wednesday

The morning found me a little better than last night but that wasn’t hard. This was still next-level stuff. Please, do not underestimate this thing. Again, I caveat that with the fact that I had no idea if this was COVID-19 or not.

Four days in, and I was praying that I had ridden the worst of what the beast had to offer, but there was no sign of this going away.

The rest of the day was a fairly consistent level of shitness, sprinkled with a couple of episodes of high fever, which had me shaking violently. The main symptom, or the worst at least, was my headache. It was a lovely migraine style throbber and when I coughed it felt like my head was a balloon and any particularly violent cough would see the top of my head splattered on the ceiling.

I spoke to my GP on the phone in the afternoon. That was a coincidence and a pre-booked follow up to some recent blood tests for a non-pandemic related condition. Once we’d covered that I told him I had the plague and although being understanding, and confirming that it did very much sound like COVID-19, there was little he could do. If I became “worryingly breathless” I should release the big guns and call 111. Ideally, I’d like to be tested so I know if I have had it and can then relax a little armed wth my immunity and be free to visit and help our parents.

Imagine how well prepared the UK might have been if we’d seen this happening in another country in December 2019. No test for me, because there aren’t any available.

Having had zero sleep last night, I made it until 8pm before falling asleep, but only managed three hours until I was awake and chugging down paracetamol to stop the shivers. I had realised by this stage that trying to do anything crazy like lie horizontally in bed resulted in my lungs attempting to leave my body by any orifice they could find. So, with that in mind, I slept in a “very comfortable” slumped position on about 23 pillows.

Once the pills kicked in, I did pretty well though, sleeping from around midnight until 5.30am.

Thursday

Paracetamol. My lifeline. They were swallowed within seconds of being awake, noticing that we were getting low now my only thought was that if we can’t find any more, then I will be resorting to burglary to get my fix.

Salvation. Paracetamol was sourced from family members and delivered through the front door. Life was worth living again. I honestly thought that today I would need to finally admit defeat and actually be off work ill. There was just one call I had to do first thing and then I could retire.

Well, that one call led to one of the busiest and more stressful days of recent times and when you’re operating at a good way below your normal 1000% sparkling best, that’s not good.

Weirdly, I felt a little better come the afternoon. My headache was still bad but it had morphed now into more of a neck and somewhere near the ear pain. Louise diagnosed it as an aneurism and said I would be dead by morning…probably.

Work was full on until around 5.30, I walked the dogs, slowly and then collapsed a bit and had a half an hour lie down until our tea arrived, a no contact pizza delivery.

The cough was still around, but it felt like my temperature was improving if only I could shake this head pain. I managed to stay downstairs until my normal bedtime and slept almost normally for about six hours.

It was today that Rebecca and Tom made the decision to move the wedding. Hopefully, the new date in July will be far enough out to be viable. Everything is a guess and gamble at this stage.

Obviously, they were both upset, but it seemed the obvious and sensible thing to do. Luckily, Freddie was blissfully unaware and was enjoying his time at home with Mum & Dad.

Freddie in a blanket

Friday

The cough was still there, and in fact a little looser/worse, but the temperature seemed to be going away now. The decent sleep seemed to have helped the pain in my head and neck, which, on reflection may have been caused by having to sleep at a right angle on Wednesday night.

I was still having hot flushes. As I type this, my dressing gown is open to the waist and if anyone comes to the front window it may take their sight.

I felt OK through most of the day, to be honest. I was able to be half decent at my job, which is often as good as it gets. I was in that semi-euphoric “I think I might survive after all” phase that comes as you start to recover from a grotty illness. I, of course, did too much, peaked at about 6pm and went downhill quite quickly afterwards.

I lasted until about 10pm I think and slept initially until around 2am, and was then up for an hour before sleeping again until 8am.

Saturday

Upon waking I was again immediately scrabbling for the pain killers as the migraine style headache was back. I rested, waiting for them to kick in for half an hour until the Asda delivery guy turned up about 40 minutes early and I had to spring into action and some clothes very quickly. The headache was that bad I was navigating the route from the front door to the kitchen using memory and a sense of smell, as everything looked blurry.

My favourite substitution was definitely this.

The headache cleared after another hour or two and the cough was still around and yet again a bit looser.

I was definitely on the mend today with just some tiredness to cope with. I walked the dogs with Emily and enjoyed not doing much else to be honest.

I slept OK, from around midnight until 5am, and then managed to get off again until about 7.30.

Sunday

The headache/pain in the neck is back. (Insert your own joke). I don’t know if it is sleeping position induced or some other issue but I can’t bring myself to bother anyone in the medical profession with it right now, to be honest.

I don’t know if my perception of this crisis is tainted because I’ve been ill, presumably with “it” as the week has unfolded, but I have been constantly astounded by so many people not giving this the attention and respect it deserves and demands. In my ill state, I have watched some horrific things on social media, with some of the footage from Italy’s hospitals being absolutely terrifying. To then follow that up by watching a couple of gormless gimps in the their twenties stood drinking in a pub, shrugging this off as something less important than a pint of lager fills me with rage.

Perhaps they won’t be smiling when they aren’t able to attend their Nan’s funeral that they caused by being absolute dicks.

I’ve been a bit preachy over on Twitter so will try to restrain myself here. What terrifies me most about all this is that we seem to be stumbling into a hurricane with a dustbin lid and fly swatter hoping to defeat it.

The question I got asked the most when I told anyone I thought I had COVID-19 was along the lines of “When do you get your test results?” or “Are you getting tested?”. This is just not an option. There are not enough tests to offer to anyone but the critically ill. They are not even testing frontline NHS staff who are battling this thing without the required basic equipment. The claims that all the Personal Protective Equipment has suddenly turned up isn’t true. I don’t say this stuff for dramatic effect, I just want you to stay home. It’s the only thing that gives us any chance to avoid tens of thousands of deaths.

The illness I had last week was relatively mild. It wasn’t pleasant, but nothing worse than other flus and illnesses I’ve had. That isn’t the point. For many others it will kill them so you need not to give it to them.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.

Till the next time……

The Andrex Apocalypse

There is, of course, only one topic that I could blog about this week. It’s one of those situations where any other topic would be ridiculous and yet I am neither qualified or grown-up enough to write about it. In a situation that if it appeared in a film, might get dismissed as unbelievable, the world seems to be making its way to the hot place in a hand cart.

Working life has been dominated by the C-word all week. Every meeting inevitably comes around to the one subject, planning for worst-case scenarios and wondering if and when it will be the right time to have everyone work from home. For me, it is always the right time to work from home, but money still needs to be made and business needs to carry on, as much as it can. However, I think it is now just a matter of time until those that can, do.

As the working week drew to a close the bombshell dropped that Disney parks were closing around the world. It makes absolute sense really as if you were to design the perfect method of spreading a virus, a few hundred thousand folks crammed into theme parks in a tropical climate would be right up there at the top of the ideal scenario list.

I know that there are many more important issues linked to this virus, but that is a tangible benchmark as to how serious this stuff is getting. These parks only close when they absolutely need to. My heart breaks for those who have spent large amounts of cash and time preparing for their WDW trip only to find the parks closed for the rest of March at least. In the scheme of things, a ruined holiday is nothing and may seem even more insignificant as this thing escalates, but people are absolutely allowed to be upset.

I was particularly upset to hear the College Programme was cancelled and all the kids sent home. That would be heart breaking for all those who worked so hard to earn their place on that.

Of course, these are all the very definition of first world problems and goes to show how much of a cosy and untroubled existence most of us normally lead. Shit, as they say, is about to get real, and life as we know it will have to go on hold.

Our own personal concerns beyond the health of our family members include Rebecca’s wedding at the end of May, which I guess is at risk currently only as we just don’t know how things will play out over the coming weeks. Of course, we also have our WDW trip at the end of August, which, we’d have to hope will be OK, but with Trump at the helm over the pond, who can really know how the land will lie then.

So a global recession, a pandemic claiming thousands of lives and a toilet roll shortage lie ahead. You never see The Walking Dead address the issue of a lack of means to wipe your arse, do you?

To those of you who work in healthcare, I wish you nothing but good luck, good health and endless gratitude. This is going to be a testing time as if your normal duties are anything but!

Whilst this infection for most of us would, it seems. only mean mild symptoms, I wish you all the luck in the world in avoiding it but more importantly, look out for your elderly relatives and friends. It’s going to be an impossible balance between staying away so as not to potentially infect them and looking after them in what could be a lengthy lockdown.

On a lighter subject, it’s likely to be a few weeks or months of film and box set binging so do let me have your favourites. There may be little else to do for a while. I’ll also be up for your vlogger suggestions, but as you know my tolerance for those is fairly limited so they have to be top-notch. 🙂

Stay safe, stay sane and let’s try to get through this the best we can.

Till the next time…..

Bad Things Happen To Good Places

Bad weeks happen all the time, all over the world, to varying degrees. Even the places that are supposed to be the happiest on earth have them too.

Whilst you all had a great week last week as I did not blog, the place that is never supposed to have bad things happen suffered a bit recently.

Safety whilst in the parks is not something that ever crosses my mind to be honest, but it just goes to show that even the most perfect of places can have an off day or three. In recent times WDW has been in the wars.

It started with the sinking of a Jungle Cruise boat a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how long that ride has been around and it’s not even worth googling. It’s been a long time and as far as I know incident free. So I suppose the law of averages state that something was bound to happen at sometime. Thankfully of course nobody was hurt apart from some moistness and mild shock.

Then just days afterwards , there were reports of two people mover trams “slamming into each other”. Now, slam may be an over exaggeration knowing the speed these things travel at, but I can bet it wasn’t pleasant.

With photo credit to @wrightculpepper on Twitter you can see the evacuation taking place after the event. Again, if you had to pick two of the safest rides in WDW, Jungle Cruise and People Mover would be up there I suppose, but to quote the greatest philosophers of our time, shit happens. Of course, there was also a very public issue with the new gondola system shortly after go-live which after all the testing we saw happening for such an extended period was very shocking.

So those relatively minor incidents in quick succession were oddly out of place with what to the casual observer may seem like a fairly blemish-free accident record. I’m sure that’s not the case and you don’t have to spend too long on google to see rumours and reports of lots of other accidents and incidents.

One of the most quoted rumours about WDW is that “nobody dies on WDW property”. We’ve all heard the tales of folks passing away but not being declared so until they are safely away from WDW. I don’t know if that were ever true but putting those two minor bumps into sharp insignificance was the horrendous news out of the Contemporary Resort where it appears someone committed suicide by jumping from the building. That is just horrific in every way and it shows even in places like WDW people can do the darkest and most tragic of things.

It feels a bit grubby even writing about it so I won’t share any links etc, as I’m sure you all saw the news anyway, and I apologise for inflicting such horridness on your Sunday, but I guess sometimes, real life is like that and not even WDW can help.

My thoughts are with the poor woman and her family and anyone else who was involved in that horrible situation.

There’s no jovial coming back from that, so I won’t attempt any light-hearted sign-off. I know this is supposed to be a place of trivial nonsense, and it nearly always is but that struck a chord with me, being the most tragic of events against the “happiest” of backgrounds.

If anyone is struggling, as we all do from time to time, then please use the help that exists.

Till the next time…….

Nursery Nopes

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling absolutely “over” winter. The recent weather has been like an endless Lewis Capaldi song, miserable, depressing and all too frequently experienced. Every dog walk sees me gearing up like some Arctic explorer and returning moist in places that have no right being so.

As I type I am looking out at sideways rain and a situation I do not want to be taking the hounds out into later. Spring cannot be far away now right? I need some sunshine, warmth and less moistness.

Last week was spent helping and advising Rebecca to navigate her return to working life. She had already secured herself a role in a nursery a couple of weeks ago, but shortly after starting found herself with two other offers to consider, both considerably closer to home which would alleviate the 6am starts she had been enduring.

Nobody could have predicted the difficulty of choosing between those two nurseries. It gets more complex as built into the decision is the fact that Freddie will be attending the same nursery so it has to be right on more than one level.

I won’t bore you with the tortuous deliberations, but it took a while and there were even a couple of twists and turns after making a decision that meant things turned on their head at the last minute. Anyway, she seems sorted now and will probably start a week tomorrow at the nursery at our local hospital, so she’ll be looking after the kids of the nurses and doctors who work there. She’s had to give two other nurseries a polite no, one of which mainly because even for a member of their staff they insisted on all of Freddie’s fees upfront for the first month. That’s just a big fat nope for someone just returning to the workforce like Rebecca!

In a strange twist of fate, Louise will also be back working at the same hospital, starting around the same time, so that will be handy. It’s funny how things work out.

I was astounded at the fees involved for Freddie to attend full time nursery. Safe to say that the majority of whatever Rebecca earns will be eaten up by those, at least until he turns three and they get some free childcare. In the meantime she gets back to the career she loves and wants to pursue and Freddie gets into a lovely nursery.

The other major event on the horizon is Rebecca’s hen party next weekend. Emily, as maid of honour, is in last-minute prep mode, making sure that everything is in place. I cannot say too much, as I do not wish to spoil any surprises, but I played my part yesterday by purchasing some items for the event online. I cannot tell you what they were, but safe to say my online personalised adverts will be something to behold for the foreseeable future. Of all the sacrifices I have made for my children over the years, this is right up there. May my cookies rest in peace.

Yesterday I was trying my best to do what we are probably all familiar with these days, in attempting to herd decades of photos into one “safe” place. Having lived long enough to take photos before digital cameras and the internet, sadly some are lost, but others are spread across different parts of the cloud and various devices. That is to say nothing of the video that still sits on old fashioned tapes in a bag somewhere that we MUST transfer into the internet before it gets lost.

There are still so many “memories” floating about that I need to get to, but I made some progress. You know what happens now through right? You get bothered with some of them. You have no doubt seen them all before, as I have I, but you don’t take photos to look at them just once.

It was particularly nice (and terrifying) to see a couple where Rebecca is Freddie’s current age. It also made me tragically aware of the damage the stresses and strains of the intervening twenty-odd years have done to me.

Oh and I also found one of the photos from my first ever trip to WDW in 1980.

You can tell it was our first time as I am holding a park map. Nowadays…

Christ, I look dreadful in that last one but still about 3000% better than I do today. Oh look, the rain has eased to a mere downpour, time to start layering up for the dog walk.

Till the next time…..

Meet Pie

Often, when there isn’t much to report on the WDW planning front I will regale you with “edge of your seat” updates on the exciting life that I lead. I will often look back on the week just gone and select just a smattering of highlights from the many to choose from.

I’d like to do that now, but I was in a meeting. Yep, all week. It was one of those weeks in which events conspired to see me busier than a busy thing from start to finish. It was not enjoyable. As is the way of the working world these days, many of those meetings were “virtual”, either via an online “thingy” or video conference. I checked the calendar and it is 2020 which makes me wonder why these things are still, at times, absolutely bobbins.

“Hi, who just joined?”

“Can you see my screen?”

“I think he’s joining now.”

“Sorry, can you go on mute, there’s a load of background noise!”

Round and round on this carousel we go, discussing things that, given a choice, we probably wouldn’t, over sub-standard audio, and often, whilst on mute, not really listening and instead waging war on the endless shite pouring into your inbox.

I’m not sure this is the pinnacle of civilisation envisioned by those phoenicians half way up Spaceship Earth. Recognising this, the weather Gods expressed their distaste for my woeful week and my Ark is coming along nicely.

Last night, Mustard were taking yet more steps along the showbiz highway in Earby. If you haven’t heard of Earby, don’t worry, the people who live there haven’t ether. It’s out in the hinterlands around Burnley and the weather on the drive to and from the gig was underwear threatening. Sideways torrential rain, gusting gales and heart stopping puddles of water on the motorway reminded me of one of those drives many of us have had along the I4 during a Florida thunderstorm when the wipers just won’t go fast enough. There are fingernail shaped dents in my steering wheel as concentration levels were high.

In other, non moany work related news, Rebecca’s wedding draws ever nearer. Louise took Rebecca for her hair trial yesterday and by all accounts it went very well. I’m not sure when my hair trial is, but I hope it’s soon.

It’s only two weeks until the hen do. They are off to Liverpool for the weekend and Emily, to her enormous credit has worked tirelessly to arrange a full programme of events and activities that they will all have to tackle from behind huge hangovers. This hen do has been a labour of love for Emily for many months and I’m sure it will be a huge success. I shall be spending that weekend in glorious peace and quiet, missing them all, surrounded by take away containers and the PS4.

Planning wise, there has been time for none of that. We are hurtling at surprising speed towards our ADR window. At the end of this month we can begin the process of determining where we are going to eat in several months time. All of those plans are already set as you know.

One thing I did find a few seconds to notice last week (so I can’t have been that busy after all, right?) was one email. On our last trip, I signed into the Perkins WiFi during our breakfast trip there. One of the conditions of that was, it seems, signing up to them spamming me every day with their promo emails.

That can be annoying and it’s easy enough to unsubscribe, but when they send you content like this, why would you.

I have thought of little else since receiving this email. Indeed it saw me through one particular conference call which ran for six hours. Sucks to be me right?

Till the next time……

A Bob Iger Come and Get Me Plea….

I have often suspected the senior leadership team at Disney sit poised to read my weekly blog. Having just last Sunday laid out my own personal gripes in great details about the FastPass tiers, specifically at Hollywood Studios, I was pleased, but not too surprised to see them take my thoughts to heart and change things up.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been added to the top tier of FastPasses at Hollywood Studios. Coincidence? I think not. There may come a point when I need to start invoicing them for my consultancy services.

With three rides now in that tier that can only help to spread the demand out and make it even easier for us to fail in getting one for the two we really now want and begrudgingly settle for one for Slinky Dog.

In terms of career aspirations, I don’t harbour too many any more other than for a better commute and enough money to fund further trips to WDW, but if I could be one of those folks you see wandering around the parks in slacks, a remarkably non-sweaty shirt and an earpiece, then yes a position somewhere within Disney management would appeal. Imagine going to work every day to do something you are truly passionate about. The downside would be that if we did live in Florida I would need to be winched out of my front room within 12 months of our arrival as the smorgasbord of culinary delights on offer would see me behave like some sort of adult Augustus Gloop in a place where everything is seemingly is edible and either covered in Cinnamon or double Cinnamon.

This new railway ride opens in March. Demonstrating once again why this isn’t a blog you should rely on for up to the minute Disney news, I have no clue what this ride is. There are no height restrictions which is good for a party like ours with a Freddie in tow, so it won’t be rivalling Rock n Rollercoaster for thrills, but these family “everyone can join in” rides are for me, really important for WDW. I believe that the whole idea for the parks came from Walt having to sit and watch his daughter’s go on fairground rides without him. There are times when you do want a G force laden thrill a minute ride, but there is equal joy, perhaps more, in watching the face of the younger members of your party experience rides that everyone can do together.

On better Disney blogs than this one I’m also seeing rumours of Disney abolishing free FastPasses and the ability to book them ahead of time. That, to me sounds like a very bad idea. Not only do I not want to pay more for what I now get for free, but Disney must surely realise that the complex planning that a lot of WDW visitors do months in advance is very much part of the trip. The rumour is that you would only be able to buy FastPass privileges on the day and then I guess see what you can get.

That way carnage lies. A trip to WDW is already VERY expensive and no doubt by the time we get back there it’ll be costing somewhere close to $100 to park for the day, so charging for FastPasses as Universal does for off-site guests would be a very unpopular move in my view. Hopefully, it holds as much water as most WDW related rumours do and this never comes to pass.

Knowing as I do that all the top Disney execs read this, here’s my advice –

  • Leave the FastPass system alone
  • Stop increasing parking costs every few weeks
  • You need to either build a fifth park or undertake some major expansion to one or two of the others.

I say the last point as the continual addition of new resorts and rooms means they are pumping more and more guests into parks that have a finite capacity. Sure, there are new rides and lands, but the real estate they are in is pretty much what it always was. There are no longer any real quiet periods at WDW now, with Disney doing a fantastic job of inventing seemingly endless events and festivals to get people in.

This is good, as it gives them higher revenues which to their credit they then re-invest into the parks, but we’re coming to a point now where people will stay away if the very crowded scenes that happen at peak times continue. There’s little to no fun in that scenario.

Now, I do know that in December 2019 Disney bought 235 acres of land just west of Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

In January 2019, Disney also bought 1,575 acres for $11 million in Osceola County and before that, it bought 965 acres for $23 million from nearby B-K Ranch in December 2018.

Disney has made no announcements about potential uses for the land, but it is located near other Disney golf courses. It would be an anti-climax if all that land was for golf, as much as I do like a round of that in Florida.

With Universal launching a new park in, I think 2023, it is usual for Disney to respond so I’m hopeful we get that long-awaited “fifth gate”. For as long as I can remember, a Villains Park has been rumoured. I think to be honest that rumour has just been a product of internet speculation and it may be more likely that another land is added to Magic Kingdom in that theme, as that to me would work well.

The worst-case scenario could be that they just use this newly purchased land to build more resorts. That would just compound the issues in the parks now. It’s almost as if I’m suggesting that some idiot from Bolton knows more about the workings of an organisation than those who run it.

So Bob Iger and the lovely Disney execs. I am available for consultancy and/or full-time employment at competitive rates and will take partial payment in food.

Till the next time…..

FastPass Tiers and Tears

As we endured the 74th week of January last week, I was pleased to see it whizz by quite quickly. Work was busy, and so that hecticness stole away some more hours of my life I’ll never get back. As I hurtle towards my half century I have come to the realisation that most of my life now seems to be spent either communting or recycling.

In the whirl of normal life, I remember seeing some news that the FastPass+ tiers have been amended at Hollywood Studios. That was pleasing but you have to remember that it usually doesn’t affect us as our account on My Disney Experience has been blacklisted for all the rides everyone wants FastPasses for.

You may remember me from such films as “Flights Of Passage? Are You Having A Laugh?” and “Slinky Dog? I Should Cocoa!”. But, like Charlie Brown, once again trying to kick the football as Lucy holds it, I’ll be there on the relevant days going through the motions anyway just to fail spectacularly.

It’s a Safari FastPass for you!

Sumggler’s Run has now been opened up to FastPass bookings which is nice. That and Slinky are grouped together so I suppose the upside is that we may finally stand half a chance of getting one for Slinky Dog. We did ride it last year, but to date have not been anywhere close to a FastPass.

At this rate, we’ll be easily snagging FastPasses for Rise Of The Resistance when we go for Freddie’s 18th birthday. It is the theme park version of the circle of life. I’m old enough to remember rides like Test Track and Soarin’, being THE ride to get a FastPass for. It was only five minutes ago that I was dad jogging all the way through Animal Kingdom to get an old fashioned paper FastPass for the Safari as that was the headliner at the time. These things come and go and if you are mature and sensible you’ll realise that and not spend your Sunday morning pissing and moaning about it in a blog post.

For anyone who missed it –

Tier 1 will include: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash. Guests will be able to pre-select one of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

Tier 2 will include: Toy Story Mania!, Alien Swirling Saucers, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Disney Junior Dance Party!, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Muppet*Vision 3D, Fantasmic!, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. Guests will be able to pre-select two of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

So Tier 1 is going to be a bit competitive isn’t it? Not for us of course. We’ll just end up with the dregs, but it won’t affect me and I won’t go on about it endlessly.

We are 205 days out now. It won’t be long until we can begin the ADR process and we have a few to do this time. Disney are smart in allowing ADRs 180 days out. It makes the upcoming trip exciting earlier and for longer, having to imagine what and where you want to eat several months out. Then after me moaning about not being able to get some of them at the time or day I want them, a few months later I can do it all again because I can’t get onto a theme park ride without queuing.

Anyway, there’s no planning I can do right now, so I am away to tick off my list of Sunday chores. It’s amazing how upon opening my eyes on a weekend morning I can see a full day of nothing laid out in front of me and within moments it becomes filled with stuff that “need” to be tackled and tackle I must.

See you back here next week for more upneat musings and moaning.

Till the next time……

Planning By The People

There are times when I and certainly you may wonder, what is the point of these blogs each week. There will be several different answers to that question, many of which I wouldn’t want to share here, but one of the reasons was borne out last week.

Despite this blog being, I suppose, some sort of Disney blog, I never profess to be an expert and I’m certainly never up to the minute on all the stuff that’s going on. It’s a Disney blog, sometimes, by theme, audience and intent more than design. With that in mind, it is always useful to get the often more expert views of those hardy fools who persist in reading these posts.

When I lay out my plans for our next trip as I did last week I can always guarantee that I will get some feedback that will change my thinking and often the plans themselves. Last week was no different.

It’s funny how some eateries emerge from the pack at certain times as “the one” getting the buzz and reccomendations. The name just seems to crop up in conversations, blogs, vlogs and exchanges between like minded Disney foodies. That’s how we’ve discovered many of our favourites over the years. This time it is Rock and Brews. It got two or three seperate mentions from different folks as a place we should consider.

It may be sacriledge, but one of our all time traditional absolute rock solid eateries, Applebees, was wavering on the cusp of the plan. It has done nothing wrong, other than not cater especially well for vegetarians and with our group now including one, it has become a consideration.

With that in mind, a change has been made, and instead of our Applebees pilgrimage we are now going to try somewhere new in the shape of Rock and Brews.

If like me you’d never heard of it until about now, then the menu is here. Now, I don’t think it’s breaking any new ground in the culinary experience but that’s no bad thing. The menu looks interesting enough, with a decent nod to non meat eaters and it is local to our villa so fits nicely into our plans as an Applebees alternate without us changing our direction of travel.

The other joy from last week’s post came via Twitter from SchmeichelJFox .

We’ve both ignored our football incompatability enough over the years to follow each other on Twitter and this paid dividends when he slid into my DMs this week.

Apparently guests staying at the Hard Rock Hotel are allowed to enjoy the pools and facilities at Portofino Bay. As my DM read….

“Last time we stayed at Hard Rock (love it) we found out we can use all the facilities in Portofino Bay. They have quite a few pools to check out – one with an amazing bistro and waterfall that’s great for a chilled afternoon (more chilled than Hard Rock and a little more room to play with the kids). Also, the bay itself is a great place for ice cream and a beer watching all the boats and singers who come into the square…. We always had a pre city walk beer or two at the thirsty fish in the bay of the hotel in its “square”. A lovely way to maximise the value from your Hard Rock purchase. We were quite shocked how much was available at this hotel so far away from the parks and city walk.”

Now, I’m not sure my then 25 and 23-year-old kids will be wanting to play with me in the pool, but Freddie might. But more crucially, we are always on the lookout for stuff like this. This sort of venue sounds perfect for a just showered, slightly sunburned pre or post-dinner chilled out drinkie and so this sounds right up our street. Our time at Hard Rock is limited but we shall be trying our best to avail ourselves of that and maybe the pool option too should the Hard Rock be a little too “Magaluf” as it can get at times.

So all my planning last week was done by others. This was handy as work was inconveniently busy and it was a Mustard heavy week too. We had no gig, but we took the chance to slot in a rehearsal to get some new songs into the repertoire which take some time for my ageing brain and limited ability to soak in.

We also released a video. Yeh, I know!

Sometime in early December, we spent a cold, yet interesting and enjoyable Sunday in a local rehearsal room being filmed not actually playing some of our songs. Thankfully, the unwritten rule of the music world is that bass players cannot feature in more than 1% of the footage used and for that, I have to be honest, I am thankful.

The chap who did this for us has performed a “silk purse/sow’s ear” standard of miracle making five middle-aged blokes slightly beyond their best look almost acceptable. Now, that’s talent.

Should anyone require the services of a great band for a special occasion, then Mustard may be for you.

I will leave you with that pop perfection and see you back here next week when hopefully you have all improved my holiday plans again. You know it makes sense.

Till the next time……

Man With A Plan

OK, so we’ve done the Christmas, New Year and the moany back to work posts. Waistline aside, things are back to normal and so, with barely a mention so far of our new and exiting WDW plans for my 50th, it is well overdue that I drag you kicking and screaming through a day by day account of the plan as it currently stands.

I’ll be honest, it’s probably much more complete and finalised than even I imagined at this stage. In fact, moments after confirming the dates and flights, the day by day template was filled in and if it changes significantly between now and August I’ll be astounded. It would appear, that shockingly, I’m quite good at this now. Still, that won’t stop me obsessing over it at regular intervals and adding extra, unneccsary expense to it as we go. It’s what I do.

Last year was a “cheap as chips” we shouldn’t be going affair so we held back on the ADRs and on-site dining. There are no such restrictions this time around so you will notice much more going on in that regard.

Day One

We fly on August 26th from Manchester with Virgin. We are bubbling as we enjoyed that so much the last time we flew with Virgin. I’m pleased to say we take off (around) 10am (no plane has ever left the tarmac on time in the history of mankind) and land at a very sociable 2pm at MCO. We didn’t enjoy the later flight times last year as it meant getting into Orlando at 7pm, and by the time we’d got to the villa there was no time to go out and eat. See where our priorities lie?

I’ve hired an overly extravagant car from Dollar. I have shunned the mundane mini-van for some sort of monster truck equivalent that will take up three parking spots wherever we go. I’m only 50 once, if at all.

We will be picking that up and leaving the airport more quickly than the It’s Orlando Time group left Facebook, but under less suspicious circumstances.

Our villa is a doozy, again an absolute extravagance, near Formosa Gardens. We should be there some time around 4pm, and after a little unpacking and a trip to the supermarket, taking our seats at the Outback Steakhouse as tradituon dictates some time around 9pm UK time.

Day Two

If you don’t know by now that our first day is spent at Magic Kingdom, I can’t help you. With a more civilised arrival time on day one, we should be fed and in bed by a sensible time, meaning we are fully rested for day two and a full day in the park. The plan is to last until late afternoon/early evening and then go to the Polynesian for our (hopeful) ADR at O’hana.

Day Three

Traditionally a rest day but in recent times we have chosen to spend it in a water park. This works well as those who want to can rest up and those who get bored after an hour around the villa pool can go off and risk life and limb on the slides and stuff.

We are going in strong from the start food wise with a trip to Teak Neighbourhood Grill planned for our evening meal.

Day Four

Hollywood Studios today. Hopefully Rise of the Resistance has calmed down a bit and we won’t need to be outside the park gates at 6am. I can say with some certaintity that whether it has calmed down or not, we won’t be doing that!

Again, like some dining greatest hits collection, another firm favourite for many years is on the plan for tonight, at Bahama Breeze.

Day Five

Animal Kingdom. We didn’t see Rivers Of Light last year, mainly due to time pressure but also because we suspected Freddie wouldn’t sit through it. With another 12 months under his belt he might so we’ll try to give it a go.

The hits keep on coming with Yak and Yeti for dinner (by that I mean tea but I’m aware people south of Birmingham read this).

Day Six

As tends to happen every year, this will be my birthday. It’s a big one, and not only does it mark my passing into my 50’s and no doubt another pants size, it also marks the 40th anniversary of my first ever trip to Florida. I spent my 10th birthday in Miami all those years ago, and look what’s happened since! We drove up to Orlando for just two days at what was only the Magic Kingdom then. It was clearly enough to create the monster I now am.

Epcot of course. You knew that, but we are cramming more food than is wise into the day with a character breakfast ADR at Cape May (we can then park at the Yacht & Beach), a wander around World Showcase and then probably back to the villa to get something vaguely presentable on. That’s because I am hopeful of securing an ADR at California Grill, followed by a re-mortgage and a viewing of the fireworks from the viewing deck.

Day Seven

Something new today. We are doing a few days at Universal, and the first part of that will be to give the “new” water park Volcano Bay a go. I need to do some proper research and vlog watching on this as I have very little clue as to what goes on there and the best way to tackle it, but, again it serves as a rest day after the excesses of yesterday’s celebrations and a chance for the more adventurous members of the group (Tom) to go and play.

To keep that theme going, for dinner we are going to try the Ford’s Garage place on the 192 for the first time. If you’ve been and think we shouldn’t, now is the time to tell me.

Day Eight

So now we start our holiday within a holiday and check into the Hard Rock at Universal. This is one of our most favourite places in Orlando and despite probably only needing one night to get the required front of line passes to complete both parks, we’re doing two. It gives us more chance to experience the parks, especially as it is Tom and Freddie’s first time and hopefully rest around the pool.

We will start in Islands of Adventure today.

It also opens up some of the excellent dining options on City Walk and we HAVE to do Cowfish as the Cheeseburgerooshi is the most delicious thing on the planet and that’s where we will head on this evening. Toothsome for dessert may be an option or perhaps Voodoo Doughnut’s taken back the room for an orgy of excess.

Day Nine

Universal Studios today, with perhaps some pool time followed by a meal at Antojitos, which is a Mexican most of us have never tried but Emily recommended it after eating there during her CRP stint.

Day Ten

We checkout from the Hard Rock but of course sill have front of line access so we will park hop and re-do anything we want to. Once we’re done we will head back towards the villa and eat at Applebees on the 192.

Day Eleven

All I have so far for this day are food plans. They are BIG food plans, and I’m sure we will fit something inbetween them, but after three park days, some relaxed down time filled with calories will no doubt be required.

Breakfast/Brunch will be at the excellent Hash House a Go Go. Several hours of moaning and swearing that we’ll never eat again will be followed by dinner at Sanaa at Kidani Village where there will be literal fist fights over the bread service. We all do like us some bread. Hopefully we’ll also be able to show Freddie some of the animals wandering about out the back.

Day Twelve

Back to Animal Kingdom today. We loved our light lunch at Tiffin’s last time out so we may wander back there for cocktails and food around lunchtime. With that in mind, I just have Homecoming at Disney Springs in my plans for dinner, as that is known for it’s light, healthy menu!

Day Thirteen

Our second day at Epcot. It feels late on day 13, but that’s how things work out sometimes. Tonight will be our chance to watch whatever they have seen fit to replace Illumnations with. No pressure.

With that in mind, we will return to Via Napoli as we have loved it on our past two visits.

Day Fourteen

As we will have 14 day tickets for all the Universal stuff I have pencilled in a return today. We won’t have front of line of course, but we can have a more leisurely wander and ride anything that doesn’t have horrible wait times. By this time in the trip, we will be well into September, past Labor Day and hopefully, there will be sufficiently low crowds to make this worthwhile.

Our dining option of choice tonight is Cheesecake Factory. This is another awesome eatery and we were all gutted not to be able to fit this in last year.

Day Fifteen

We are lucky enough this year, due to my 50th splurge, to be staying a little longer. We return to Hollywood Studios today with little more planned than that. Olive Garden is pencilled in as our eatery.

Day Sixteen

Our last full day is of course spent at Magic Kingdom. Last year we popped out to eat off-site at Romano’s Macaroni Grill and were delighted we did. We hadn’t been for a few years but if you haven’t been, you must. With that in mind, it is planned to do the same this year, but if other events take our fancy we may do those instead. Who said I was a planning obsessed overweight ball sack?

Day Seventeen

Travel. Enough said. We’ll do a huge breakfast somewhere and then fly home after buying gifts for people who have hundreds of Disney gifts already.

The only positive about today is that I managed to get us into Premium for less than economy so we may get some comfort/sleep on the way home.

So there you go. I’m tired after typing that out so who knows how we will cope with the real thing.

If you have any advice or suggestions on new places to eat that we should do instead of returning to past favourites I’ll be all ears.

Till the next time…….