World Class Whinging When WDW Wasn’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Feeling and Falling Down

Holy moly I am missing WDW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

Living La Lockdown Loca

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

Till the next time…..

Being Right & Retro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

Reigniting The Fires Of Anticipation

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

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

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

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

Credit to wdwnt.com for me stealing their photo

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

I stole this from Lionel Dore’s Facebook post

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

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

Side Glance GIF by Reactions | Gfycat

These graphs really are grim reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

Park Strife?

After all the hassle and nonsense that I have been sharing with you recently, you will not believe what happened when I tried to make all our park reservations.

It all went very smoothly.

I know this is a shocking situation but I can only tell you the truth. On Monday, my tickets turned up around mid-morning. I quickly whipped them out of the envelope and tried to link them up to the My Disney Experience app. That was pretty painless with only one (mine) refusing to link up on the app and it needed me to use their web site instead.

With that done, every day for which we wanted access to a Disney park was available and after ten minutes we were done. I don’t know what all the fuss was about!

After my diva strop last week it is only right that I bring you up to date with Floridatix. I did get a response to the email I sent them last Saturday on Tuesday of this week, asking for a little more information which I provided. I then got a call from Carly there on Thursday. She was very good, apologised and could make no excuses for what happened. She explained the delay in despatch was due to them running out of Universal tickets (the irony) and she could not understand why I had been told twice that the order had been sent.

She promised a small gesture of financial goodwill and a goody pack was heading our way as a token of apology and all in all she provided just the right amount of understanding, culpability and customer care to make me feel like I had been listened to. With there being no impact on the booking of our park reservations, I was a lot more willing to accept an apology than if that hadn’t been the case.

I stand by my emotional rant last week. It was in no way an overreaction or a sign of irrationality on my part. So there.

This coming week is a big one with WDW re-opening the first of its parks. We can all only hope that they somehow get a fecking grip on infection levels before the whole country resembles some sort of Walking Dead cosplay event.

It doesn’t look good if I am honest, with infection rates In Florida and other states seemingly completely out of control now. For the first time, I am feeling fairly comfortable that the decision to push the trip back to March was the correct one, with growing concerns that things may not be “right” even by then.

I have no doubt that Disney will do things as well as they can. It will probably be one of the safer places to go if you want to go “out”, but it certainly won’t decrease the number of infections.

I know that both of my readers love this endless stream of nonsense about a holiday they won’t be going on, but how about some other content? I could share with you the details on how I have used lockdown to relentlessly exercise, resulting in a weight loss of almost two stones. But who wants to hear about that nonsense. If I see one more work out video online my overdeveloped sense of guilt may consume me alive.

Instead, in real life news, we are currently grappling with the quandary of whether to move house or stay where we are and do some pretty extensive work to it. Both options horrify me in fairly equal measure but we do need to do one or the other. Our house doesn’t really do what we want it to as it’s very old and was built for folks with a very different way of living so it needs surgery or we need to find one that does.

We had our builder and his architect round this week to explore what we could do here and we are leaning towards that option but neither of us feels we are 100% sure either way. The plan is to remove the back of the house and re-configure it as the stereotypical “family room” with open plan kitchen and living space, rather than the traditional three-room layout that all houses of our age seem to have.

Whilst we were encouraged by the architect’s advice and guidance, we do continue to fire up Rightmove and see what’s out there too. We may end up tossing a coin in the coming weeks as it comes to the point when we need to make the decision.

So you now have the prospect of me not only pontificating and stressing about our holiday in the coming months, I will also have the stressful scenario of either major construction or a house move to throw into the mix. How will you stay away?

By the way, I haven’t lost two stone.

Till the next time……

Reservation Reservations

It’s time to retire the cliche that a week is a long time in politics. What has happened in the last seven days in the small world (see what I did there?) of WDW holidays has dwarfed anything that has ever happened in Westminster.

It’s been an odd week for sure. Away from WDW, work has been off the scale busy, with me barely having time to knock another day of our countdown on the fridge each morning. There was also all sorts of COVID crap going on too. Having just read through this post before publishing it, the scattergun, all over the place nature of it reflects the nature of the week just gone quite well, so I’ll leave it as it is.

Florida seems to be trying to become the new global centre for infections, leading to the Mayor of Orlando issuing a mandatory mask executive order from yesterday for the “Disney” counties. No doubt the same folks who think they need to take an AR-15 to Taco Bell just in case shit goes down and they need to lay down some covering fire will find a piece of cloth across their mouth too much to bear.

Disney, although understandably busy getting their act together did not cover themselves in glory either. Early in the week, Floridatix posted a since-deleted blog post with all sorts of odd stuff in it. There was talk of reservations for the parks being required right through 2021, the removal of the 7 and 14-day park tickets from September 2021 and some other bizarre stuff around 21-day tickets that my brain couldn’t take on board. Displaying all of my customary wrongness I, of course, dismissed it as nonsense.

It does appear that Floridatix jumped the gun as did a couple of other ticket companies, but despite me originally thinking it was all bollocks, as the week progressed it became clear that something along those lines was in the planning. The fact the information was published and then removed and that there was no immediate communication from Disney itself was if you looked at any of the WDW related Facebook groups, causing some angst among Disney fans.

It was a bit poor in my view. Disney knows that a lot of the fun of going there is the planning and anticipation and the current chaos and random communications have killed all of that. Now, I recognise there’s a pandemic going on and they are busy reinventing their entire operations, but this death by a thousand cuts approach to their communication isn’t good. It’s a stressful time for the planners in the party.

So by the middle of the week, it did look to be the case that park reservations would be in place going into next year. By I think Wednesday, the Disney website had been updated to show those bookable dates for park entry for AP holders through June 2021.

The ticket companies, when they prematurely communicated this stuff were suggesting everyone pay their balance asap so that they could link their tickets to My Disney Experience and make their park bookings. The one bit of missing info at that stage was what the window might be to do that. If there was no window and you can literally book your days as soon as you have your tickets then I figured I’d likely cough up the balance to give us the best chance of getting into our parks of choice. If they said you can book from say, 60 days out, then, of course, we’d pay up just before that. It would just have been nice to know what the hell was going on.

Well, on Friday, it became a little clearer with the following info being released this time by Disney.

Booking Dates for Park Reservations

The Disney Park Pass system will be available soon to select Guests. Booking dates vary based on your plans.

Beginning June 22, 2020, Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests with a valid theme park admission can make reservations.
Beginning June 26, 2020, Annual Passholders without a Resort stay can make reservations.
Beginning June 28, 2020, existing ticket holders can make reservations.

Park reservations will be available through September 26, 2021, based on your Resort stay and ticket eligibility or ticket eligibility window.

So that made it clear(ish) that we would need to have our tickets paid for and linked up asap so that on June 28th we could attempt to secure the parks we want. Hopefully, we will be able to get them sorted. Thankfully, when I booked our theme park tickets I included cancellation cover so should we find there is not enough availability during our stay then we will be able to return them and sack the whole thing off.

I do wonder if Disney have not put a booking window in to help themselves and their ticket company partners. It is clear they have all had a torrid time, taking in very little new revenue and no doubt refunding a lot of people. With this new system many folks will be encouraged to pay for their 2021 park tickets now, helping the cash flow of those selling tickets. I have some sympathy for that, if that is the case, as we all need those companies to stick around.

Overall though, this is just a whole heap of stress and uncertainty that should not be the case with an expensive holiday. It still seems odd to me that Disney is announcing so many changes so far into the future. To be releasing policy changes up until the end of 2021 when nobody knows what the end of next week looks like seems premature to me. I do hope they are not using the current situation to make some changes they ideally would have liked to anyway, but feared the backlash. The termination of the 7 and 14-day tickets from September 2021 seems especially weird. If that persists beyond the 50th celebrations that will have a material effect on UK visitors. I understand that many of you will be more outraged by the withdrawal of the dining plan. We’ve never used it so that doesn’t really affect me, but I shall be angry on your behalf.

In all of this, I am clinging on to the hope that they are going for the worst-case scenario and it can all be taken away as things improve with something like a vaccine. My naive yearning for normal is never-ending.

In other news, Canada and the US extended their border lockdown until July 21st. Now, this may be a coincidence, but Virgin have been saying for a while that they are planning to start flights again from July 20th. Virgin this week also said they would start up again from early August from Manchester. This is a total guess, and please bear in mind my very poor track record on this sort of thing, but maybe Virgin know something, and that is the date that the US will open up to international visitors. Not that this affects us anymore. Trump got bored with COVID about three weeks ago and is instead concentrating on infecting lots a few of his supporters at rallies so who knows. When he remembers the ban exists on international visitors he may just lift it.

As this traumatic week came to an end, cases across Florida spiked above 4,000 in a day and the whole country’s stats look like they are on the rise. There’s some chatter about this being OK as hospitalisation and death rates are flat. I want to buy into this theory, but there is a few weeks lag between infections and those then needing to go to the hospital and/or dying so I think it’s too early to tell. The thinking that the increased testing in Florida was driving the spike in cases seems to be largely incorrect. The positive case rate is up above 12% compared to around 5% for recent weeks in early June. It’s not good.

So ahead of me is another week of stress as I watch the front door waiting for our tickets to arrive. This time next week I need them in my sweaty mitts so that I can be online booking our park reservations. We’ll be fine, right?

Till the next time…….

The Post Postponement Post

Welcome to the first blog post after the big reschedule. This shall be an attempt to embrace the “new normal”. A normal in which my countdown went from a very lovely 80ish days to around 270. It will take some adjusting to, but try I shall.

One thing that this whole debacle has taught me, or should I say reminded me of, is that there is no bad time to take that holiday. I of course specifically mean one to WDW but I guess it goes for those who do holidays wrong too.

I was about to try and count all the years that we went despite probably thinking we shouldn’t for all sorts of financial reasons. The truth, however, is that was probably the case every year. We could always have spent the money on something else. The fact that we didn’t and instead blew all our disposable income on these trips is something I never regret. Now, later in life, with probably more disposable income and options, the fact that we have been prevented from going is ironic at best and a complete shower of shit at worst. So I am very glad we were “silly” in the past.

Just to complete the loop on my reschedule planning, I was correct for a second time last week when I predicted that the car hire folks would suddenly need a load more money. To move our booking required a 20% increase in the fee. I did a quick comparison on a few sites to see if a fresh booking and losing my £50 deposit would be cheaper but it wasn’t worth the hassle. I swallowed the ridiculous increase and just got on with my life, only pausing briefly to moan about it in my weekly blog that nobody reads. It is news to me that March is somehow more “high season” than the end of August but what do I know about trips to WDW?

I have rebuilt “the plan” around our new dates, retaining the bulk of all the theme park days and eateries, but they may get a little tweaking over time just to cater for the weekends falling on different days of the trip for us now.

It appears that the Flower & Garden Festival is scheduled to start on our first day too. Louise, Emily and I have experienced this before, but it will be a first for everyone else on the trip. As nice as it is to get to see different things like this, I still would very much have preferred to go in bloody August.

I have been keeping a close eye on how things are shaping up in Florida. Having done so previously to desperately look for reasons that we may still be able to go, now, it’s more to check that we made the right call. I, like probably both of you reading this, watched the Tim Tracker video of him going to Universal, face mask and all. It looked OK to be fair, but there did seem to be very few people about and he only did a couple of hours. How that would be for a full-on park day with capacity crowds (whatever they may be) I don’t know. Look, I know I’m trying to subliminally convince myself we made the right call, just play along.

I’ve also been continuing to enjoy and appreciate the daily updates from Lionel over at Hit The Theme Parks. He’s been doing some useful and welcome analysis (in a spreadsheet and everything) about what the recent spikes in Florida cases are all about. It does seem to be linked to some more tests being done, but there is an increase in cases, which is to be expected when re-opening up everything, but whether it is the catastrophe the headline figures suggest, we don’t yet know. If case numbers rise rapidly but hospitalisation and death rates don’t then this might be tolerable. Let’s hope things can be kept open and under control until that vaccine arrives just in time for our trip in March to be just like the good old days!

So with all the kerfuffle of making the decision not to go finally behind us, now we need to settle into the reality of the longer countdown, so much more work and the prospect of a glorious UK winter to endure. If I moan about that from time to time, forgive me. It’s not like me to do that, as you know, but I can’t make any promises.

Till the next time…….

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……

(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…..

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…….