A Tale Of Two Trees

Like my middle-aged paunch, Christmas has crept up on us without us really noticing. I have one full week left at work, which includes our team night out and our band night out, so that paunch will be getting a little paunchier by the end of it.

It was only five minutes ago that I was sneering at folks on social media for daring to mention the word and now mild panic is setting in that we’ve bought nothing and we’re only on our second Christmas tree.

Yes, you read that right. Having ordered a fake one from The White Company for the price of a small family car, as “it was perfect and would last us years” it arrived early last week and much time was spent decorating it. Twenty four hours later, Louise had declared that it was not satisfactory and it had to go. So it was stripped, boxed up and sent back and in its place now stands a seven-foot real one atop a three-foot pile of needles.

We’ve done well so far to only lose one decoration to the jaws of Bean, we can only hope it can go the distance to the big day. If it doesn’t then Bean may not either!

On Friday night, Louise and the girls went to an Anne Summers party hosted by one of Louise’s fellow nurses. Emily and Rebecca were quite worried about attending such an event with their mother, fearing it may scar them for life, and it is probably for the best that I don’t know what went on aside from the few Snapchats the girls posted. I took them there (and picked them up) which was quite a nice throwback to the “driving years” when my main role in life was to transport them around the planet.

It has been quite some time since it was the four of us in the car driving somewhere and it was in a strange way very nice. The night involved a fair amount of alcohol and with Rebecca not having drunk for a year and Emily being, let’s be frank, a huge lightweight when it comes to drinking, Saturday was pretty much a right off for both of them. Of course, I should also congratulate Tom for coping on his own with Freddie for the first time too whilst Rebecca was out.

At the moment, our Disney plans have assumed a position on the back burner of my priority cooker. This happens at times during a long countdown I’ve found. Beyond the occasional glance at flights, I haven’t given it much thought really. Well, I always give it thought, as in, it helps to get me through the two-hour commutes that I have been enduring over the last few weeks, but I haven’t really thought about it from a planning perspective.

I do need to find time to go over the plan in detail again, to firm up the day by day activities. I suspect my usual routine of doing the parks in the order we always do may need some attention as we have to factor in the day we will be at Mickey’s Not So Scary and the days that the running of that may impact on our potential planned visits to the Magic Kingdom. I also need to run the busy day guide against our plans. I don’t usually use these in any meaningful way, but it’s always wise to make sure there are no obvious clangers being dropped which can easily be avoided.

I have a suspicion that much of my well laid plan may be cast aside once we’re boots on the ground with young Freddie with us. Our activities will of course have to consider his needs and moods so there may be a bit of going with flows.

As some of you may have seen, I did a Facebook live on the Mkingdon Facebook page when Rebecca, Tom and Freddie popped round during last week. At such a young age he changes so much in the few days between visits and it’s just fascinating to see that happening. He’s had a cold recently which has been fun for Rebecca and Tom, but other than that he’s doing brilliantly, as are they.

He is photographed and videoed more than The Kardashians, which is only right, as he is more intelligent and newsworthy than all of them put together. I fear for the amount of coverage he will get during his first tour of Disney. He’ll never have another first time, so it may just be easier to do one long Facebook live for the whole two weeks!

I have big plans for the rest of the day and they are to rest my ageing tired body. With my taxi duties on Friday and another Mustard gig last night I have had two late nights and my middle-aged frame is protesting this morning. Louise is going out shopping for her outfit for her Christmas party so I intend to be best friends with the couch, watch some football and I have a song to learn for a Mustard rehearsal tomorrow. Next week’s blog may just be me moaning about how tired I am as this coming week, I have to work of course, but I have a rehearsal on Monday night, my team night out on Tuesday (huge Chinese meal and a few drinkies) and then our band Christmas night out on Friday (huge Indian meal and a few drinkies). I’m beginning to understand now quite how that middle-aged paunch happened.

Till the next time…..


Discount Disney Tickets


A Year Older, Probably Not Wiser.

OK, I think today might be Sunday and so it is blog time.

Much like everyone reading this by now I am fed up of eating, almost allergic to chocolate and (this might just be me) having to live in my dressing gown and that one pair of pants that fit.

Christmas was good here, and I hope yours was too. It doesn’t matter that I have two very grown up girls of sixteen and eighteen, we were still woken at around 7am by Rebecca. She sent a tactical text from her bed asking if she could get up, and we agreed as long as she was the one to go and wake Emily. We’re not stupid.

As tradition dictates I go downstairs first and switch lights on, and most years find some festive music to play whilst they open their presents.

As tradition also dictates Rebecca has all of her presents open within thirty seconds, and Emily takes around an hour. The presents this year and in recent years have changed of course from the impossible to open dolls, with most of them now being clothes or make up for Rebecca and this year almost exclusively being Disney or One Direction related for Emily.

It is always nice to surprise them though, and we managed to do that with both of them. Rebecca had mentioned months ago that she wanted a (fake) fur jacket she’d seen, so Louise had sourced one of those, and Emily had been trying for weeks to get hold of a CD, which of course was WDW related, but not available in the UK on iTunes or in physical form.

I almost broke the internet tracking it down, and despite the best efforts of US Customs it arrived just a few days before Christmas.

WDW CD1

It contains pretty much every song from the theme parks.

WDW CD2

Of course the festive music I had earlier found was immediately replaced with this. Now, suspend your disbelief for a second, whilst I tell you that with a trip to WDW in 2014 being out of the question I have been doing quite well in blocking any such thoughts from my mind. You’ll notice I haven’t really mentioned it here for a while?

Well, I even did quite well listening to the theme parks being present in my front room until one song came on. I cannot explain why this one song gives me an aching and physically painful yearning for WDW but it does. It isn’t even a song you might immediately think of when trying to guess what it is. I suppose it is because we have spent some (a lot) of my birthdays in World Showcase and this just takes me right back to those lovely times.

Between this CD and the Frozen soundtrack, Emily has been fully Disneyfied in her listening habits recently.

I got some cracking gifts too. This year was the first year ever that the girls got Louise and I presents. They got Louise a perfume she had expressed a liking for when out with them, and I got the latest Call of Duty game for the XBox. Louise also got me a decent shaver, as I think she was fed up of me leaving for work looking like a burns victim with half a loo roll stuck to my face after another bad wet shave experience.

Xmas presents

Once all the presents were done (Louise had wisely got hers a little while ago when out shopping, and I got her a handbag and a scarf which were just what she wanted! I have such good taste.) I made our traditional breakfast of Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict

Soon after that family started to arrive and the rest of the day was a blur of more presents, cooking the meal, Eggnog and in Rebecca’s case too much Christmas spirit. She ended the day not feeling too well at all. We’ve all been there I suppose.

We were hosting my Mum and Dad and Louise’s Mum so the numbers were manageable. The meal itself was a success. Louise did all the hard work of peeling everything and getting it on to cook, and then I took over whilst she got ready and just kept my eye on stuff until it was ready. There was a minor incident with the roast spuds but I like them a little extra crispy!

The day whizzed by as usual, as have all the ones since to be honest. We sit here a few short days away from a new year now, and at the risk of being like every single TV show you will see between now and then, I suppose it is time to reflect on the year that has gone.

As it will have been for everyone else it has been a mixed one. To varying degrees we will all have had crap bits, and we too have had our fair share of knock backs, upsets, bad luck and down right kicks in the goolies, but in the grand scheme of things we still have much to be grateful for, even if I forget that sometimes.

On the positive side this year just gone has been full of landmark events, and even though I’m bound to miss some here are the ones I can remember.

Louise passed everything she needed to and got onto the second year of her nursing course at Uni. As we expected, her returning to study has been a challenge in many ways. Financially of course, but also of our organisational skills in juggling busy lives, shift work, endless coursework and a hectic household. We’re over half way now, and I’m sure we’ll look back when it’s all over and laugh. Won’t we?

Both the girls took exams in the summer, Emily passing her A levels and Rebecca getting enough passes at GCSE level to get onto the course of her choice at college. We have to be happy with that! Rebecca of course also had her prom.

Rebecca Prom Dress

I made that!

Shortly before her prom she turned sixteen. Hmm, this year has been chock full of important events. No wonder I’m knackered.

A short while after that in the summer Emily passed her driving test. As weird experiences go, having your daughter driving is right up there. Whether she is grabbing the keys and heading off on her own or if I’m sat in the passenger seat desperately trying not to break for her, I still haven’t got used to that.

On a personal note I did something I never thought I would. I wrote and self published two books. It still feels odd to say that, but it is true. I didn’t actually write the first one this year, other than trying to make it more readable and less error strewn, but you know what I mean. Mkingdon’s Tales of Family, Food and Florida and Mkingdon’s Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013 were supported by you kind folks to a level that I could never have imagined, and I need to thank you all again for that.

The release of the latter led to a bit of a kerfuffle and a rant on my part, which led to two things. That blog post got a huge number of views and the fallout from that kicked me up the backside sufficiently to get on and do something I have been threatening to do for years. I have now actually written my first fiction novel, and am in the process of reviewing and editing it. Whether it is good, bad or indifferent, having it done and released (soon) will be something I should probably be proud of in itself.

Of course, another major landmark this year was Emily’s 18th birthday in July. Attached to that of course was her surprise trip to WDW as her present. The build up to the reveal was very stressful, but I have to say it was worth it. The way in which that panned out and her reaction is something that will stay with me forever. If you haven’t seen it, or want to do so again then have a look at that post here.

August of course saw us go on holiday to WDW. Emily spent most of it in tears, but they were happy tears. We did the Keys to the Kingdom Tour and loved it, and if it were possible this trip and that tour made Emily’s love for WDW even greater. The rest of us quite like it too!

WDW 2013

Door shot 2013

WDW MK

WDW Rebecca

The rest of the year was probably a blur of me moaning, Pick n Mix, things going wrong in the house and rants about crap TV. But then again that could be any year. I know I will have forgotten some major happening this year and I’ll remember it as soon as I publish this post.

We know that 2014 is going to be a challenging one for us with Louise coming to the end of her course in early 2015, but we know that it will be worth it once she is qualified, earning and done with most of the studying. I can assure you though that we will NOT be going on holiday next year. You have my word! Again.

I’m sure 2014 will be the usual mix of ups and downs so here’s hoping we can roll with the punches. I hope your 2014 is everything you want it to be and more, and I wish you and yours good health and happiness throughout it. Thank you for your interest, support, comments and patience with the Mkingdon output, and when the time comes to release the new book into the world I hope it doesn’t disappoint too much.

From myself, Louise, Emily, Rebecca and Oli, have a great 2014.

oli xmas hat

Till the next time….

The longest break between food has been whilst writing this….

I appear to have blinked and missed Christmas.  I know I am of an age now, but wow, it flashed by in a blur of calories and crap telly.  All of a sudden it is Wednesday, my holiday is half over (or only half gone depending on your outlook on life I suppose) and I am well into my second stone of weight gain.

As brief as it seemed it was very enjoyable, with Christmas Eve Eve spent with a takeaway, my annual Baileys and the new Peter Kay DVD.  He is still one of the few comedians who can make me laugh out loud.  Being more or less exactly the same age, and from the same town some of his references to his childhood etc do strike very close to home.  We did have a very similar childhood!

From that point on, I have never let my belly get any less than half full.

If we thought for one second that now we have very grown up teenagers that the excitement levels would diminish in the run up, we were very wrong.  Rebecca was excited enough for the two of them in the days preceding the big day, and having asked what time she was allowed to get up on Christmas morning, she arrived at our door at exactly 7.00am!  Emily was behind her, doing her level best to cope with the early hour whilst remaining something close to festive.  As usual no-one is allowed in the front room until Dad has been in to “make sure he’s been”, and to switch on the lights.

So, what was months of build up, present planning and buying, came to fruition in thirty second  frenzy of wrapping paper, especially from Rebecca’s side of the room.

Rebecca's presents

All present and correct

She is a full blown force of nature when it comes to opening presents.  Emily is much more measured.  Whether they have been aged fourteen and sixteen or four and six, this has always been the case.

Emily's presents

Ooh my piles!

One thing that has changed is that these piles are getting smaller.  These days they tend to contain fewer more expensive presents, whereas a decade ago, they literally had half of the room each filled with endless dolls and tat that I would then spend all day un-packaging.

This year, the main gifts were an iPhone 4S for Rebecca and a new “proper” camera for Emily, a Nikon D3000.  As ever, the look of proper shock and surprise from both upon opening these was worth the expense.  Yep, Louise and I are a collective soft touch.

We also had a new family member to buy for!

Once he’d got bored with that present, he looked around for entertainment elsewhere.

The day then went like this.

Breakfast was with my Mum and Dad, where once again I bedazzled everyone with the Benediction of some eggs.  They left us around lunch time, to enable us to either start making “the dinner” or sit and watch telly drinking a gin and tonic.  I shall let you draw your own conclusions as to which option I went for.

Louise’s mum joined us mid afternoon, and with a few minutes to go, I ventured into the kitchen to do manly things like carve some meat, and pick the best seat at the table.  The meal itself was a delight, and from our cocktail of prawns (a Grandma tradition), through the traditional turkey fest and onto the unneccessary yet obligatory dessert, I showed great stamina to keep going to the very end, however I fell at the final hurdle made of cheese and crackers.

The evening consisted of a walk of the dog, and a bum on the couch.  I endured as much of Downtown as I could, before making a run for the hills (bed) when I realised it was a two-hour “spectacular”.  There are only so many stiff uppers I can stomach in one go.  So I read my book (a present from Louise) for a while before placing my stomach on the mattress next to me and drifting off to a dream about leftovers.

Muddy Oli

His head was the clean bit....

On Boxing Day, we didn’t do much to be honest, other than take Oli out for a bracing and lengthy walk around a local reservoir.  He got a bit muddy.

So after an hour’s walk, there then followed a bath of around the same length.  From that point on, we’ve pretty much not done a great deal.  Louise did somehow manage to persuade me to go into town yesterday, as she had some vouchers to spend with a 24 hour expiry period (apparently).  We survived, albeit with a very close call on me spending a silly amount of money on a new coat.  It was on the wrong rack, and so the price I thought I’d be paying was almost double that amount when I got to the till.  I declined, almost politely.

Today, alas Louise was back in work (ah the perils of serving the public) so I spent the morning doing a couple of errands, and some washing (yes, I am THAT considerate), before settling in for a lengthy session my newly acquired Modern Warfare 3.  A Christmas tradition for me.

So here I sit, surrounded by sweets of all kinds, having just polished off some cheese and biscuits that I clearly didn’t need, after necking a large tea only a couple of hours before.  Somebody stop me!!!

So I have to go now to plan my outfit for the New Year’s Eve extravaganza celebration which will involve a helicopter arrival at some star-studded do, rubbing shoulders with celebs whilst quaffing expensive bubbly and posh nibbly food that isn’t from Iceland!!  Either that or I’ll be sat on my couch berating the shocking quality of telly on New Year’s Eve whilst increasing my waistline by another belt notch or two.  Don’t be jealous.  I hope your celebrations go well, and your new year even better.

Till the next time….