Testing Times

It sounds counter intuitive but I have been through some really dark times in relation to this bloody holiday. Of course, that’s me being a drama queen and it shouldn’t be like that, but we live in unprecedented times.

Last week, I think it was Tuesday, I approached the point of “this isn’t worth it”. I’ve been close at various points and there wasn’t one major event that broke this camel’s back, so I guess it was the culmination of lots of straws.

I awoke to a message from a blog reader over in the States. Yes, that’s right, this blog IS international baby. He was giving me a heads up about a rumour that testing requirements were about to change in the US. I was still sulking and reeling from the move to PCRs on the return to the UK so this was not surprising, but it was unwelcome news.

I did some twittering and other internet things and it did seem that it was a real thing and we would need to do our fit to fly test one day before departure and not the three as we had previously thought and booked. Even as I type that, I see it isn’t a big deal. At the time, it felt like a body blow and started my journey to the edge of my tolerance.

As I tend to, I found myself not waiting and seeing but instead trying to move our tests before the hordes tried to, once this was eventually announced. Why I thought there would be any hordes suddenly taking up all the testing slots on the 2nd of January, I don’t know. I’m tired.

I found the way to do it on-line and quickly and easily moved the video call for Louise and I to a new date. I asked Emily do the same with hers (she will be at her boyfriend’s so will need her own call). She tried. It errored and I had no choice but to phone them up. As I was finding how to do that I got a text from our test provider confirming I had moved our test successfully and they were reminding me it was tomorrow, so don’t forget. Tomorrow? What were they talking about? How could they be so stupid.

They weren’t. I was.

In my haste and a multi-tasking maelstrom I had moved the test not to the 2nd of January but to the 2nd of December. I now had to urgently contact them as that slot was the next day.

I will gloss over the frustration and despair caused by 45 minutes of the same hold music and skip to the part where as soon as they answered, my signal dropped and I was disconnected. Objects were thrown, things were shouted. Thankfully I was alone in the house as Louise had taken her Mum to A&E after a funny turn. It’s been a “fun” week all round.

Another 55 minutes on hold and I got through to some poor soul who had to deal with me at breaking point explaining the mess I had made and what I needed. Even though I had her confirm several times what we now had in place once she had sorted it, and I got confirmation emails, I was still not convinced it would all go smoothly. Anyway, we had three tests booked across two different video calls for the 2nd of Jan now. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie booked their own tests with a provider that only allow you to book 30 days out so they can and have now just selected the 2nd of January with hopefully more competence than I did.

On top of all that, we then had the wait until 6.30 UK time for the Fauci press conference that my US blog reader (thanks @pabs) had tipped me off about. I was still fearing closed borders and a communal burning of our passports and park tickets.

In the end, Fauci seemed quite chilled about the whole thing, briefly mentioned the one day test thing and that was it. For now then, we are still on, but I dread every day for new developments. Now of course, with Louise’s Mum’s hospital trip, that also casts a doubt over our ability to go on holiday and leave her. She’s 90 and lives alone. If we get to stand on Main Street and look at the castle this January, I may cry for the first week of the holiday in absolute relief.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, somehow fitting all that in between a ridiculous workload, I think I actually said out loud, “this isn’t bloody worth it”. I’m sure, no, I’m hopeful that these dark clouds are temporary and somehow by hook or by crook we will finally get to go on this bloody holiday, but I can’t let myself believe it just yet.

Then Friday morning came and like some weird lucid dream, my fears were realised and confirmed. We had emails from DocHQ telling us our tests on the 2nd of January had been cancelled. Tethers were waved at as I passed the end of them and I assumed the position on the phone again pre 8am. Surely at this time I would get through?

Of course not. The line would not even connect. I was googling around to find an alternative phone number so I could shout at someone when I stumbled across their Facebook page where a post announced they had dropped a bollock and cancelled a load of appointments in error and would re-book them all. How I laughed.

My mental state is no doubt being replicated amongst all travellers soon to be on their way. You only have to look at the Facebook groups and the huge amount of confusion and mis-information being thrown around by folks in a tizzy. Everyone is looking for clarity and reassurance and just to know what to do. What ends up happening is more panic. I engaged on one such post where it was suggested that the 1 day fit to fly would also need to be PCR. There was absolutely no mention of that anywhere by anyone in a position to do so in the US, so I don’t know where it came from, but chaos ensued in the thread as everyone was fretting about how on earth they would get a PCR result within 24 hours without paying hundreds of pounds for each test. Where this is a vacuum of information, folks will fill it I guess. That could be a strap line for my entire blog.

Why folks are inventing new hurdles when there are plenty go around already I do not know.

As I do every week, I hoped that was the end of the stress and worry about this trip. Then, last night, the latest kick in the twins came when the UK government announced that tests were needed before flying back to the UK. I was out gigging last night so I have no clue what tests those might be, crucially how much they will cost and whether you need all the certificates and stuff, but I suspect you do.

You will know that I have always been supportive of measures to shorten the pandemic. I am triple jabbed, have worked from home, worn masks and everything else asked of me. What I find unfathomable is the mixed messaging of “you should absolutely continue with all your Christmas plans and have loads of parties in crowded unventilated locations” but should you dare venture out of the country then we will make that as hard and as financially unattractive as we possibly can.

If anyone has figured out what this new test before flying home is (PCR vs lateral flow? I guess the latter) and whether it needs to be video supervised/done by a person and then a certificate entered onto your Passenger Locator form, I would be really grateful for that information. At this point I just need to work out if this is worth the unending obstacles being put in place. I suspect these won’t be the last thing either.

This used to be fun.

Till the next time……..

Unvarying Misery

Shit got real last week, with planning stepping up several notches. Well, I say planning, it was more holiday admin that needed doing.

I booked our tests on Friday. Yes, irony alert, my impeccable timing knows no bounds. They came to about £43 each for the fit to fly video one and the day two return to the UK test. Both are lateral flow and of course events have conspired to see those being irrelevant for the return leg now, and we await the US’s changes in response to this variant, as they may well insist on PCR for arrivals too, but more on that later. Our pre-flight tests are booked for New Year’s Day. My paranoia around positive results has not abated. I am pleased to see that tests these days seem to only involve a nasal invasion as I only have to look at the swab to start gagging. Avoiding putting long foreign objects in my mouth is a life rule I like to stick to.

I have downloaded the Verifly app as advised by Aer Lingus and as soon as my vaccine certificate covers our departure date I will start filling stuff in. I am actually due my booster in early December so I will hopefully be completely Teflon to any and all diseases that may come my way. If it and wearing a mask on the plane can stop me picking up the usual stinking cold I have got on the last few trips I will be happy.

I did some painful things too, like paying the balance on the villa, paying for the hire car and securing our Universal tickets, also known as everyone’s Christmas presents. I went for the cheapest option available which was a 2 day ticket, but limited to one park per day. The only thing that prevents us doing is the train journey between parks and for the hundreds of pounds difference in price, we can watch it on YouTube.

I downloaded the Universal Resort app, where my tickets are now resting digitally, ready for use. Upon doing so I noticed you could make dining reservations for restaurants there, most importantly City Walk, so we now have a lovely booking for Cowfish on our first night there at 8pm. With just two days in these parks they will be full on theme park commando affairs, so eating at 8pm, just as the park closes is the only acceptable time.

I still haven’t seen a definitive answer on those 3 day tests for Freddie. I’m pretty sure nobody checks them, but whether you can take an NHS freebie or have to buy one in a pharmacy there, it makes little difference. At least there’s no video consultation involved.

I also filled out our passenger info on the Aer Lingus site. I was amazed to find I hadn’t already, but maybe I did but it got lost in one of the 17 re-bookings I had to do.

Of course, as mentioned above the Universe spotted all this activity and financial outlay and delivered a threatening COVID variant that could well derail the whole trip and maybe all international travel again, but hey, let’s not worry about that right now. That would be nice, but by now you know that isn’t my style. I did not take the news well that PCR tests were now required, hours after booking and paying for lateral flows. Beyond that of course if things don’t go well over the next few weeks, and let’s be honest when has it during this pandemic, my fear is the trip will be impossible again. You may have noticed that today’s post was a little later than has been the case recently and that was because I had to nip to hospital to have my bottom lip surgically restored to a more natural position. I have been in a sulk and a strop since around tea time yesterday.

So yes, it’s been a busy old week on the holiday front, and the metaphorical kick in the balls yesterday’s changes delivered were comically timed after I had finally started to give myself permission to believe that we may actually go. I see the cosmos waited though until I had undertaken maximum financial exposure before allowing all this shit to kick off. I don’t have a persecution complex, I am just persecuted.

I do have to say that if our plans do get scuppered by some COVID related shite, then we’ll give up. It won’t be practical for Rebecca to travel any later into her pregnancy and Louise will find it impossible to get time off beyond January for quite some time. We’ll be looking at mid to late 2023 for any plans to be a reality at that point.

If travel to the US is suspended again, it won’t be pretty around these parts. I’m just putting out an early warning!

We have also planned another trip, tomorrow, over to Cheshire Oaks. Louise tells me we need some new luggage and not only that, buying it online and saving petrol and about three hours driving would be a folly beyond comprehension, so off we will go. Whilst there I will take the chance to procure some hoodies. Yes, I know I have some already and most are only a decade or so old, but what the heck, I deserve it. Looking at photos right now in Orlando, it seems there may be a lot of chilly nights so a couple of good quality hoodies will be essential. Emily is cold in Florida in August so she may have to buy extra luggage space on the plane for the amount of layers she will need to take. Now you see, even that shopping trip seems a bit futile. I am deflated and demoralised by the whole thing. Again.

If I allow the grown up in me to speak up, it would say that the likely outcome here is that the only change to our plans will be having to fork out for a PCR test for our return to the UK test, and most likely the same for the fit to fly as I expect the US to follow suit, on top of the money already pissed away on the lateral flow version. In the scheme of things, that’s not too bad, but if you look up all the times I have said “in the scheme of things that cost isn’t too bad” I could have bought a second home.

My inner child, which is currently writing most of this post is screaming Verruca Salt style that the Universe hates me, it’s all really unfair and if this trip gets cancelled I will be in a tantrum for about six months. It’s all about balance.

On a serious note, if we cannot go, the thought of no WDW for at least another 18 months, and all that uninterrupted work instead, well, I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I suppose I just tried.

So you find me not in a good place today. All I can do is sit and wait, again, with thousands of pounds dangling by a thread, not knowing, even this close to the trip whether we will actually go. As many of you will have experienced, it has just drained all the joy out of the now, almost two year build up.

You can return next week for more positive vibes and mature takes on life threatening pandemics that are inconveniencing my holiday planning.

Till the next time……

Booked It, Packed It 2 – The Return Of The Fat Guy

It won’t surprise anyone reading this to learn that I have a well developed persecution complex. Most weeks, despite living a largely untroubled and privileged life, I can find something to moan about. I often trot out the phrases “you couldn’t write it” or “you couldn’t make it up” to bemoan whatever the latest minor upset might be. However, after what has been a troubled couple of years holiday wise, the events of the last week or so really have been comedic.

Having moved our Florida trip four or five times (I have honestly lost count) when the last cancellation happened I did jettison my toys from the stroller a little and instead of moving it, I cancelled everything. Breaking the habit of a couple of decades, off I went and booked a holiday to another country, crucially nowhere near the US. What could go wrong?

Within a few days of doing so, a volcano in The Canaries that has laid dormant for half a century suddenly became active. Sure, it doesn’t currently seem likely to affect our plans but we don’t know for certain and my head shaking was incessant at the “you couldn’t write it” aspect of this.

Whilst licking those wounds, and lay on the couch Facetiming Rebecca chatting no doubt about our upcoming trip not to America, Emily cried out at some news she had just seen on her phone. I did indeed feel a disturbance in the force.

“The US border is opening in November”. she relayed.

Once that had sunk in after a few seconds, my stomach churned and those special words escaped my lips. “You couldn’t (expletive) write it”.

After a family chat including phrases such as “It is what it is” and “It’s too bloody late and hard now to cancel The Canaries”, I entered into a mild sulk. I did fire up a couple of apps and checked out flight prices to Florida for 2022. Having laughed long and hard at the prices for anything close to summer my mind began to whir.

My inner Verruca Salt kicked in. I told myself things like….

“You work really hard (highly debateable) and deserve the holiday you really want”

“I still haven’t had my 50th trip and I deserve that too”

My mind began to do its work, thinking about when we may be able to get over there. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the logistics of getting six of us (at least) away at the same time, balancing everyone’s work, life plans, other commitments and of course finances is on a par with undertaking a moon landing.

After much analysis and discussion (including Tom persuading his Boss to be very flexible with his holidays) a very small window of opportunity emerged. Flights were checked, research was done, chats were had with the owner of our villa of choice and it was decided.

We are returning to WDW on the 3rd of January 2022.

This would not be our ideal time of year of course. Temperatures will be much lower than we prefer but at this point that does not matter. Again, for reasons I will not trouble you with, if we were not to take this chance, it would be very unlikely we could fit a trip in during 2022 and having not been since mid 2019 this would be very upsetting indeed, indeed probably totally unacceptable.

Appreciating the absolute carnage that is probably ongoing now in the rush for UK tourists to book stuff, I feel quite smug that we have pretty much everything in the bag for prices we can tolerate.

Having had the Aer Lingus refund for several hours, I gave it all back, booking flights with them again. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I could have got a voucher for our flight price plus 10%. This whole thing is already a shit show of incompetence and bad decision making, let’s not make it any worse.

Our villa of choice was thankfully just about available. We will have two days at the end of the trip for which we need to find somewhere to stay as the villa was booked for those. On that note I did think we would use our DVC credit notes (remember those?) to stay somewhere nice on-site to end the trip. Having spoken to the DVC rental company, they tried our dates and there was not one DVC room available on any property in Orlando. What the f…..??

I have no idea what is going on there, as I am not a DVC expert. I am hoping over time things settle down and something does come up that we can use. I am as we speak in “talks” with the folks I have my credit notes with to try and source something suitable.

Having not had our refund from Floridatix of course, and now needing some tickets (I know, I know…) I contacted them. Amazingly they were able to use some of my refund and move that to a brand new booking within minutes, but yet, it looks like I still have another month at least before I may see any sign of monies owed to me. Funny that. These new tickets should arrive any day now so I can do our park reservations….again.

So all of a sudden we have two holidays in close succession and our holidaying budget will be well and truly drained, but after the last couple of years I give not one shit. There is still much to know of course. There has been no formal announcement on the exact date in November when borders will open and what tests will be needed and how kids fit into all of this. By the time our dates roll around I am sure….no, I am hopeful that will all be sorted.

Needless to say I have resumed vlog watching, actively seeking out some from January to see how bloody cold it might be. We have been once before at that time, back in 2005 into 2006 but memories fade over time. I seem to remember the days being fine, but fleeces being required at night. I have a vague memory of buying the girls gloves and woolly hats to watch Fantasmic.

Whatever it is, we shall make the most of it. The reduced heat should make for less weariness and getting more done. We have had to sacrifice Universal which is very upsetting, but the budget just won’t stretch to the extra thousands involved in tickets and an on-site stay. Next time. That cash is sitting now with TUI for our October trip. Water parks will probably also be out of bounds and indeed closed in January? I can’t remember, but we will just go eat instead! Any thoughts of using our DVC credit notes for Vero were scuppered after watching a vlog or two from that time of year, with folks on the beach wrapped up as if they were in Blackpool in Autumn.

Having ignored most of the Genie+/Lightning Lane stuff, hoping it would go away, I am also hoping that in early January, in what historically has been one of the quietest times in the parks, we will not need them. All bets are off I know, post pandemic, and there could be three hour queues for everything, but I’ll take my chances in a more positive frame of mind on that than if we were going next August. I suspect things will take a couple of years at least for crowds and travel patterns to settle again.

So Florida looks to be re-opening for us and normality is returning. On that note I went back into the office for the first time on Friday. It was not something I was looking forward to and all I will say is that it lived up to expectations. It is only right and patriotic of me now though to support our glorious Brexit cause and conserve petrol by not driving to the office again for quite some time. Until of course they work out a way to put all our sovereignty into petrol tanks.

It seems most of my colleagues are on board with this plan already. See the bustling environment I was working in by 9.30 on Friday morning.

Anyway, all that matters is that we have a plan and a countdown and I can now try to use them to block out all the real world shite that is going on. Balance has been restored to the force.

Till the next time…….

Booked It, Packed It….

It’s done. We are booked for an overseas holiday and surely with just two weeks to go, not even the raging incompetence of our government can scupper those plans now? I mean, according to their latest “dead cat” nonsense leak to the press, I may have to convert my GBP to Pounds, Shillings and Pence before then paying for some Euros if they have their way, but by hook or by crook (and they are all that) we should be on that plane.

Oh, so I got my refunds then?

Nope. Well yes, I have now, from Aer Lingus at least, but when we booked last Monday I had not. That refund only hit my account yesterday.

The second Aer Lingus promise of “about a week” did not happen and I was still waiting for the funds to hit my account after a third chase of them this time via their Twitter account. They confirmed the refunds had been processed and should be in my account in 5-7 days. It’s a familiar story, and I admire their consistency. I can never fathom how and why refunds take over a week to make it through the banking system. When I paid for these holidays they got their money the moment I clicked the button on their website. Having worked in banking a million years ago, even then funds did not get sent by steam packet. Sigh.

At least Floridatix were brazenly upfront in telling me it will be “up to” 60 days before I see any of my money back. So I haven’t been chasing them. If I see a penny before day 59 I will be truly gobsmacked.

So having flexed my credit facilities to book the thing, I was hopeful that this time Aer Lingus would be true to their word. We had to get stuff booked as the admin to actually have a holiday now is similar to buying a house and you all know how much we enjoyed that experience. Leaving it any later would add to the not inconsiderable stress that booking it actually was. We have to fill out what looks like a Spanish ESTA, but cannot complete it until we are 48 hours from departure, arrange tests of course and then before returning to the UK, complete a passenger locator form, but not until 48 hours before our return. The latter should be fun on a mobile phone with “free” WiFi in the hotel.

In the flush of post booking excitement I went crazy and bought some new shorts. Madness. as I have several perfectly acceptable pairs that I have only had for 20 years.

Our travelling party is quite a large one for this trip. Louise and I are of course going, joined by Rebecca, Tom and Freddie (who are traveling out a few days earlier than everyone else), Emily and her boyfriend Mikey and my Mum and Dad. It is a mini-invasion of Gran Canaria.

Whilst we have done some time at a beach on several occasions over the years in Florida, we haven’t been on a non US beach type holiday for over twenty years. We did an All Inclusive to Alcudia, I would guess around 2002 and the experience was so average we’ve done Florida for every holiday since. Having read the reviews for the place we have booked I am very hopeful of better this time around. Am I as excited about going away on this trip as I would be for a WDW trip. Don’t be silly, but it will still be nice to be away with the family in the sunshine, eating stuff and not working.

We now have to start the prep seriously. We are very rusty at this leaving the house thing, never mind going abroad. Last week we had tickets to go and watch Jonathan Pie at the King George’s Hall in Blackburn. Firstly, we almost got the night wrong, thinking it was on Friday and it was only an email reminder from the venue on Thursday that prevented us from missing out. Then we couldn’t find the tickets. So with minutes to go before having to leave the house, having located some proper outside trousers, we were frantically working out if we could get in or not.

Thankfully, the box office were able to reprint them and we got in, but it did feel like we had forgotten how to operate in these matters. This does not auger well for the logistical exercise of getting to a different country with everything we need.

Anyway, we are currently as prepared as we can be I think. I have three pairs of new shorts and Louise bought a bottle of P20. What else could we need? Rumours started circulating towards the end of the week that the traffic light system and things like tests on returning home could be scrapped soon. The irony of this happening so shortly after we had ordered our tests was not lost on me, but I will take the financial hit to be rid of some of the faff involved in having a holiday.

I have to say though, via a link from the TUI website to one of their partners, as long as you are fully jabbed, for Spain/The Canaries, the testing was much cheaper than I expected. We don’t need a fit to fly, just the vaccine and then we (at the time of booking) needed a test before flying home and another two days after landing. That package only cost £20 per person. I resent any extra cost but that is a round of Starbucks at the airport money, so it is tolerable I suppose.

With the changes announced late last week, that test before flying home is now not required and we just need to do the one within two days of arriving home. At least now the risk of being stranded overseas due to a positive test is removed, although of course we would not travel with COVID should we actually have it!

Trip wise pretty much everything is sorted. I am unused to this package lark, where you book everything in one go with one company. Where’s the fun in that? I have to sort transport to and from the airport UK side still but other than that, we’re good. Our flight out leaves at 7am. That will involve a very early get up and a very brave and willing taxi person to do the honours. We could be hitch hiking there. Similarly our return flight touches down at 1.25am. That’s a grim taxi ride home too. We may end up doing the airport parking thing instead. We’ll see.

I can’t remember if I posted details of our hotel previously so I will do so now. We are staying all inclusive at the Riu Vistamar in Gran Canaria.

It has decent reviews, sunshine, pools and buffets. That’s all I need to know really.

With a nod to the elephant in the room of any potential return to the US. We are no nearer it seems. There have been some vague noises out of the US about plans being made to facilitate and allow international tourists but it still feels like a 2022 thing to me. Watching the odd vlog, and I have only managed to watch exactly that number recently, I feel very distant from the place. I’m sure that’s temporary but it is of concern nonetheless. It does feel like whatever place we will eventually return to may never be the place we used to visit.

Anyway, in two weeks (tomorrow) we will be at the airport once again, having a holiday and that is not to be sniffed at. All that remains now is to pack, lose two stones and remember how to leave the house.

Till the next time……

Aering My Grievance

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear some positive upbeat holiday news around here? News of refunds effortlessly winging their way to my bank account and our new alternative holiday being booked without any hiccups and us having a countdown of sorts to a much needed getaway.

Yep that would be lovely.

Of course, no such thing has happened. Aer Lingus are not covering themselves in glory in relation to their 5-7 day “promise” for that refund. It was requested on the 27th of August and here we sit drumming our fingers still.

I chased them about three days ago. Sure they are busy and no doubt have a lot to get through but I did check in with another affected Aer Lingus customer and blog reader who requested their refund after mine and of course there’s arrived very quickly and without faff.

Sigh.

Anyway I feel much better and totally reassured as I was told that the refund request would now be passed to their Priority Team who would deal with it urgently. Firstly it’s always nice to know you weren’t a priority in the first place and secondly when I asked how long the refund would take now it sat with the Jedi Masters of refunds I was told they could not give me a timescale but maybe within a week or so. I think we need a chat about the word Priority.

For someone who plans holidays in advance, being a few weeks away from our potential departure and not being able to book is an alien concept but here we are. I can feel my ire rising (not a euphemism) and I shall be having a chat with my Irish flying friends very early next week.

Away from the will they won’t they of our holiday (listen to those cheers), it has been brought to my attention this week about some Disney vlogger drama. This is actually the second week in a row this has happened.

Last week I caught wind of some UK Youtubers who had sparked controversy by getting to Florida by first spending two weeks in, I think it was Crotia and the Disney online community had gone berserk at them. I think what they did was called “not reading the room”.

There was a lot of anger at them doing this with everyone else suffering cancelled plans and having no hope of getting there anytime soon. I didn’t care very much about this as I had never watched any of their videos and probably never will but I put it down to that age old demon where some folks start getting some attention and traction for their online activity and they begin to crave it and do stupid things.

At its most extreme I’ve heard of some (non Disney) Youtuber having a bath in bleach to generate views. That did not end well. In this case I suppose they thought being the first UK folks out there would bag them a lot of attention. Well it did but in the form of anger, unsubscribes and vitriolic comments.

I don’t really know how that little storm ended but hopefully it involved those folks getting a little perspective about online attention and the drug it can become.

This week’s drama involved The Trackers. Apparently they have been dropped from the media event list by Disney and Universal due to some “content” they posted a decade ago. It’s not really about that as far as I can see. As ever it seems there is someone or someones out there on a mission to bring them down and they have been bombarding Disney and Universal via multiple email addresses insisting they cut their ties with The Trackers due to this content that they say is not in line with Disney’s/Universal’s values. There are rumours of who that is but I won’t share those as there is no proof but suffice to say the theory is another vlogger is trying to knock them off their spot and take their place.

Success in any sphere attracts trolls I suppose. I mean I get bombarded all the time with jealousy and sabotage about my blog which has had pretty much the same number of readers for a decade. You can’t buy that sort of consistent mediocrity.

When you are The Trackers and are getting more views than quite a few TV programmes now you are always going to get divided opinions. It’s clearly too simple to say if you don’t like them don’t watch them it seems. They are and have been a consistently excellent source of information for Florida travellers over the years. Sure some of their content won’t please everyone, but how sad do you have to be to spend your time trying to destroy what somebody else has achieved.

Hopefully they will be reinstated soon but in the meantime I hope they will be laughing all the way to the bank in their Tesla and giving that troll(s) the finger as they drive by.

Shall we reconvene here next week, when my refund will absolutely have happened and our new trip will be booked, just in time for the October lockdown to drive a coach and horses through it? October lockdown? Well, the government have both not ruled it out and said they have no plans for one so I think that’s crystal clear as usual. Two days ago vaccine passports were happening but in the 48 hours since they have seemingly reviewed all the factors, that presumably they lost down the back of the couch on Thursday and now they are “definitely not going ahead with those”.

It’s the hope for competence that kills you.

Till the next time……

Can We Go On Holiday? Yes, We (Probably) Can-ary.

After a week off work you’d imagine I would be rested, relaxed and raring to go. I’m not, but it’ll take more than a week of mowing grass, answering work emails on my phone and not lying in as long as I would have liked to achieve that.

As the week drew to an end both Louise and I also seem to have inherited some of Emily’s (non Covid) illness which isn’t that bad (for me at least) other than it prevents sleep. Louise is doing less well.

My birthday on Tuesday was a quiet one and I don’t think it will surprise or upset anyone to hear that I have had better birthdays but it was lovely to see family and get lots of lovely gifts. Most gifts were clothes which seemed to be a family wide conspiracy to tell me I am overdue a new wardrobe. I am set for any upcoming holiday now with many new T shirts.

We’ve been searching for that alternate holiday destination this week and I think we are there. An all inclusive hotel has been identified in Gran Canaria for our October dates and as soon as anyone fancies sending me a refund we will be booking that. The hotel is called Riu Vistamar on Gran Canaria. Hopefully those refunds will be any day as Aer Lingus said theirs would take 5-7 days. We sit here on the cusp of the end of that period so we will see what happens.

Floridatix received my tickets early in the week and quickly issued our cancellation invoices. Of course for some reason it will now take up to sixty days to actually see the cash returned. I mean they’ve only had thousands of my pounds in their bank since late 2019 so that seems fair.

Shout out to Matt (villa owner) who had that deposit back with me almost before I requested it. Travel Republic, through which we had booked our Universal stay, also refunded our small deposit within a couple of days.

My fear of the US opening shortly after we book for elsewhere is subsiding. Whilst there are small hints that the US know they are coming under increasing pressure to come up with a plan, I still think it will be 2022 before we are allowed in. Regardless, it will definitely be then before we can return now. What state the parks will be in with all these changes and how silly flight prices might be we can only imagine.

I think the US has a little bit of time to go yet to ride out their current wave and we will have our own new surge in cases with schools now back. I am hopeful for 2022 but I have lived in that naïve state for almost two years now so nobody hold your breath.

Had you told me in September 2019 as we left the parks for the last time on our most recent trip that we wouldn’t be back for the best part of three years (at least) not only would I have wept (more) but I may have chained myself to the flagpole on Main Street. Having been so often we were, I think, definitely at the stage of taking these trips for granted. Never again.

So in just under a month we should be overseas (probably…I just cannot bring myself to think about any travel plans as concrete), enjoying the sunshine, unlimited food and not being at work. It will be lovely of course, but just not quite the holiday I would have wanted. Who knows, maybe I will rediscover my love of these types of holiday. They were all I knew until the age of ten. I’m not kidding anyone with that, especially myself, but excuse my positive spinning after what feels like endless whinging (I don’t need to tell you that, right?).

How is my beach body diet going? Well, let’s just say that I am no heavier now than I was last week, and at this stage let’s embrace that for the positive step that it is.

And with that I shall leave you. We appear to be in for a heat wave this week so make the most and try to imagine you are somewhere in Florida if you can.

Till the next time……

Yearn To Fly

It’s been a long and winding road, starting in November 2019, but the trip that never was is now officially dead.

After five sets of dates and endless stress and faff, on Wednesday Aer Lingus postponed the start of their Manchester to Orlando service until (at least) mid December. We all knew this was coming of course, but it is still a big kick in the nads when it does.

I knew that something would need to give in the next week or so as we had balances coming due in early September that I would definitely not be paying if there was no border news. Aer Lingus, thankfully, in a way, put me out of my misery….and into a new, different misery instead.

Previously when flights were cancelled we simply picked the whole trip up and moved it into the future, naively believing that by “that time” everything would be back to normal. Not this time my friends. With the US infected with lots of Delta and even more stupidity, I can see no prospect of travel to the US in the coming months.

So on Wednesday and Thursday I began the very sad and labour intensive task of cancelling everything and this time requesting refunds. I called Aer Lingus who tried to tempt me into vouchers with a 10% bonus, but there’s seems little point in that really. So full refunds were requested and then I sent back all our theme park tickets, requesting our refund for those too. They expire at the end of 2021 and I think there is zero chance of a trip before then. I can’t tell you how upset I was sending those back. It was a physical manifestation of the death of our plans. I was also very scared that the postal service will lose them and that envelope contained lots of cash value in those little plastic cards. Until I get receipt confirmed and the refund processed that will be something else to worry about.

For a few weeks now we have been chatting about what to do as and when our October WDW plans died. Ultimately our need for some sort of holiday has kicked in and we are now looking at alternative countries for a different kind of holiday, just to get some sun, relaxation and fun. I have all kinds of reservations about that. The testing regime, the ability of our government to screw holiday makers over by changing the colour of a country either just before you go or whilst you are there and the fact that frankly it isn’t Florida, are all on my mind.

However, I will be happy to go, and just not be on Teams or mowing grass for a little bit.

As far as Florida plans go, well we have none and that is never a state I like to be in. Our position now is that we will wait for the border to be opened and then see how many organs we need to sell to fund the surely ridiculous flight prices that will be used to gouge every penny from the pent up demand.

It would be par for the course now for the US to open their border, probably just after we press the “book” button on some trip to the Canaries or similar. Sure, I am feeling sorry for myself. I earned it.

When looking for these alternative holidays the constant issue of no hotel being in Florida or being operated by Disney persists. Those that “look” nice then have unsettling amounts of horrifying reviews on Trip Advisor. There’s also the fact that we haven’t holidayed anywhere else for twenty years or so (as Louise constantly reminds me) and that makes me scared of the unfamiliar.

I suspect we will find something suitable and have a really nice time, but of course, it will not shock you to know that I will be thinking about the next WDW trip the whole time, like some unfaithful ex.

We did get our Vero DVC element transferred to a credit note. We have 36 months to use that. Should be fine. right? In my gut, I suspect it will probably be next summer before we get back over there and it will probably need to be before the end of August as Freddie will start school/reception in September. We may have to sell the house to fund that trip. I mean, I like this house, but needs must!

We did briefly consider moving the trip to January, but there are only so many times you can get hurt and keep coming back for more. If by some miracle the US open up say on January 1st then you will probably have to wrestle me to the ground to stop me booking us a trip for that month. Sure, it’ll be cooler/chilly at night but not as bloody chilly as Lancashire will be!

In more cheery news I have a week off work next week. How I have enjoyed everyone I talk to at work asking “Are you going away anywhere?”. I refrain from explaining my two year struggle to get on a plane and just smile and say, “No, just relaxing at home.” If only they knew…..

In reality I will be mowing stuff no doubt, answering work emails on my phone and not lying in as long as I would like to. Oh and dieting. If we are going anywhere near a beach or pool any time soon, then for the sake of others, things need to change in a big way and quickly. With just over a month till we go, I figure I can lose say three pounds?

So as I remember sitting in our old house, watching the news of the pandemic around April 2020 and telling Louise that our August 2020 trip would be absolutely fine as there was no way this thing would go on that long, let us all marvel at my spectacular ability to get things wrong. If that trend continues in the same vein then any day now the US border will be open and I’ll be seething on a flight to somewhere else.

Fingers crossed that the return to school over here (I know Scotland are back already and seeing this) doesn’t see a huge spike in cases that may lead to even our second choice of holiday being threatened. I can’t say it often enough. You can keep destroying my overseas holiday plans as much as you like but I am not booking a bloody holiday in the UK!

Till the next time…….

I Seethe At Genie

It’s one of those weeks were horrific events somewhere in the world make the trivial nonsense here even more offensive. Usual caveats apply in that regard.

There was a brief moment around Wednesday, with a couple of White House Covid briefings that some semblance of hope surfaced about border news. It turned out that they were all about the booster jab programme and nobody even said the word border.

It was silly to hope but it’s what we do I suppose. With the passing of that potential update, hope for October is now all but extinguished I think. I am prepared to be wrong yet again but I don’t see us being allowed to go. It feels to me that the US administration are completely focussed on the Delta variant (and of course more so Afghanistan now) and getting that under some sort of control before they do anything. Battling with the governors trying their best to extend the pandemic is probably taking precedence over allowing tourists in.

The White House announced it was extending the travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico until September 21st this week so we know from that, the UK will be the same until that date and most likely beyond.

Now of course the thinking and theories could be that they will get those boosters delivered before they open the border. That would be a good few months. Overall, I guess they just want to get case levels down to a more reasonable level. As ever, the frustration is the lack of transparency. Most folks just want to know they aren’t going if they aren’t.

It’s tragically sad in its own little first world problem kind of way.

Then to kick a man when he is down Disney unveiled their plans to introduce paid for FastPasses. I honestly couldn’t be arsed to research it in much detail but I will share my uncalled for uninformed opinion regardless of course, as is the way on the internet.

As usual, it appears more complex than it needs to be but I think it’s $15 a day which on its own in the scheme of the holiday doesn’t sound too bad. But for UK folks doing 10 to 14 days, for a family of four it adds up to between £600 and £800 to your holiday. Sure you don’t have to buy it every day, but it just makes for a two tier system in the parks. You can probably ride all the lesser attractions, but if you want to get anywhere near Rise Of The Resistance or Flight Of Passage as examples, then you are paying extra for the Lightning Lane stuff, which, however you cut it, is a bit of a piss take. I know all the parks do it now, but any model where the park makes more money by being a bit crap at processing large volumes through rides only benefits one side of that deal. Who am I to suggest that they may intentionally inflate wait times to up their revenues.

Maybe the free version will manage the crowds in a way that will reduce the longest wait times, but you have to think that if that happened nobody would be buying the paid for versions and as much as we all love Disney, I think we know how that one goes.

I’m sure park reservations and the new Genie thing give WDW unimaginable data and insight on crowds in the parks and will allow them to marshal folks to quieter areas and rides and I can see the theory that this will make for a more enjoyable experience. I doubt it will get you onto the headliner rides though unless you get your hand in your pocket. Having shelled out over $20 to park, $15 a day per person on top or potentially unlimited amounts of the Lightning thing sticks in the throat a bit as it isn’t as if the park tickets are particularly cheap. It would have been a nice gesture to say, because of this we commit to not increasing park ticket prices for two years or similar. Again, this is pure fantasy I know. They are there to make money.

It’s another stage in the slow death of the feeling of excitement surrounding these holidays. It’s becoming a dark cloud of doubt and uncertainty hanging over us rather than a beacon of joy and excitement that we can look forward to. We don’t stay on-site typically but I have seen many folks bemoaning the slow removal of almost every previous benefit of doing so. It makes you wonder what the thinking is behind it. Maybe WDW has data that says that off-site guests are more profitable? Hard to imagine that is true but why else would they upset their own resort guests?

Usually I am very supportive of any change WDW come up with. I trust them to protect the experience and brand. It’s probably a symptom of my incredible frustration that we cannot be there, or even know when we might, that I am lashing out like some bitter ex.

I did briefly look at ADRs early in the week, mainly just to try and remember what it used to be like doing exciting things like planning. The pickings were not just slim, they were skeletal. I appreciate that I missed the 60 day window due to apathy and no belief that we will be able to go, but unless you plan to eat at Disney Springs there is nothing to book. I managed to find a couple of things we would be happy with but I’m just creating more things to cancel later.

I know it’s not like me but I will end with a couple of small positives, that are probably too late to save our current dates but may go someway to helping with later ones. On Friday (I think it was) the US delivered over one million jabs in a day for the first time in months. Even Trump endorsed getting the jab at his latest MAGA rally. He was booed of course as you can’t fix stupid, but maybe some of his less challenged followers will take the hint that all the MAGA dolts undermining the vaccine have had it. If that continues and cases start to plateau who knows, we may get in.

In summary, I am worried about how I am starting to feel about WDW and Florida. I have a real fear that things will never be a special as we perceived them to be in the past and if that is the case what a shame that will be. All this angst may well melt away once we are back to being able to go when we want to. In the meantime I shall continue to spit my dummy all over the interwebs in a vain attempt to make myself feel better.

The truly tragic part of that is that you have to tolerate or avoid it as you see fit.

Till the next time…….

Border Whine

As hope for our October trip dwindles day by day now in a maelstrom of DeSantis testosterone and MAGA asshattery, even the airlines are joining in. Midweek, TUI dropped an enormous bollock and updated their website to say all flights/holidays to Florida were cancelled until November.

They corrected the error fairly quickly but not before Disney Facebook went into understandable meltdown, which was only superseded by the outrage of it being an error. The last thing thousands of desperate Florida obsessives need is someone dicking about and making errors like that.

For us, I don’t see a scenario in which borders are opened in time now. Aside from whether we actually want to go into the COVID soup of Florida, I think it is now only a matter of time until we get cancelled again and I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that the TUI cock up comes to fruition relatively soon. The dates for which flights are being cancelled now is edging towards our departure date. Virgin have now gone to September 23rd before you can book a flight to Orlando on their website.

In an attempt to find the glass half full, at least we won’t lose the money we paid for our Vero stay via DVC points. Next week I will be able to convert that to a credit note. As long as that has a 50 year expiration date we may even get to use it at some point.

What we do when the seemingly inevitable cancellation happens will depend on how we feel the land lies I suppose. If there is definite news of the border opening or at least some clue that they are planning on it then I guess we push the thing back a month and go again, again. If we are still in this endless limbo then we may make the call to push it out until next year and go and have a holiday somewhere that we are allowed to go (I have no idea where that is or might be) and just get some sun. We all desperately need a break of some sort.

The real problem to me is, when does this get better? Vaccine rates in the US aren’t low because they can’t roll them out. Folks just won’t take it. Where does that lead us? In circles is my guess and even by saying, well, we will sack it off and go next year, what will have changed or improved by then?

As you all no doubt know, Florida and much of the South are drowning in COVID, driven by vaccine resistance, idiotic religious dogma and politically driven stupidity. The very obvious facts that unvaccinated areas are seeing massively worse outcomes seems to be ignored. We are truly in a post truth scenario. The upshot is that this will prolong the pandemic and resultant travel restrictions, probably beyond our dates and I am not OK about it.

But then I think, US folks can currently come to the UK, fully jabbed, with no quarantine, and large parts of the south of that country are like a scene from The Walking Dead, so maybe the US could reciprocate. But as much as I always thought one state’s situation would not affect Biden’s countrywide decisions, he has to bear in mind that Florida is a huge tourist destination. I guess if he only allows double jabbed folks in, they will fare better than the yeehaws and rednecks hiding behind their bibles and MAGA hats like some sort of crucifix.

Uggh….

Depression GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

For someone who has been so loyal and so obsessed with Florida holidays it is heart-breaking to notice that as more time passes something strange is happening. Of course I miss it and at times a vlog, a memory or even a smell can evoke ridiculously strong emotions of sadness that we have no prospect of returning anytime soon. But at the same time, the longer it is that we can’t go, the more used to not going I become.

I suppose that is just one tiny example of how life will never be the same again for so many people in so many ways. Now, knowing me, as soon as there is news and progress my massive obsession will resume. I guess it’s the endless unknowing void of just moving the whole bloody thing time after time. I’m sure many in my situation would even welcome Biden following New Zealand’s lead and at least putting us out of our seemingly endless misery. New Zealand have already said their borders will be closed until at least the start of 2022.

I would be as equally unsurprised now if Biden either opened up the border next week or said it will be shut until next year.

It’s amazing how the lack of the dangled carrot of a holiday can affect the mood. It hasn’t helped that it has rained non-stop for about three weeks now and the dreary chill of Autumn is hurtling towards us, but I do seem to be a resident, nay King, of the State of Meh.

Never has the need for sunshine been so great.

Till the next time…..

FFS Fridays

Last week saw Louise and I reach the milestone of 25 years of marriage. Thanks to all of you that left comments and congratulations.

On the day itself we were not able to do too much as we were both working, Louise on a late. We did venture out to The Trafford Centre on Friday evening mainly to pop back to the shop Louise got my present from to exchange it for the right size. Twenty five years on and my original wedding ring no longer comfortably fits on my infinitely fatter fingers so she had very thoughtfully got me a new one. I get the new correctly sized one towards the end of next week.

Having done that we thought we would get something to eat whilst we were there. Two things struck us. Firstly 90% of folks were not bothering with masks. I’m no mask Nazi but in a place as packed as it was it probably makes sense for now to err on the side of caution.

Secondly every eatery had a huge queue. As it was now knocking on for 8pm and I hadn’t eaten since around 12 things were getting serious and the lack of a wait became the main selection criteria. Not surprisingly this led to a very disappointing meal at TGI Fridays.

We haven’t been to one of these for many years, but when we have in the past the quality and portions have been pretty impressive. Both seem to have shrunk in the intervening years.

We knew we were in trouble when our £13 plate of nachos came out and it contained about a dozen Doritos and a blob of guacamole.

They tasted OK but when your portion expectations for nachos are built on your Applebee’s experience this was poor.

Our mains weren’t much better. I opted for a burger and it arrived lukewarm and soggy. There aren’t many things you want in that state. Louise had Fajitas filled with crushing disappointment.

There is my burger (there are fries in a separate basket out of shot) with Louise’s tiny portions of guacamole, watered down sour cream and salsa in the background. The sizzling platter was 95% onions and 5% chicken.

As we weren’t full we ordered dessert. They brought me the wrong one but I’d lost the will to complain and ate it anyway. It was the best thing I had which is ironic. Louise had cheesecake which was pretty much what you’d get from Asda.

We left £65 the poorer with no intention to return. Any place can give you a bad experience but if the food is bobbins like that we won’t be back. The service was OK though.

See. You deny me going to Florida and I end up giving you food reviews of some chain restaurant in a shopping centre. The whole experience just served to remind me, as if I needed reminding, of the dining experiences we are currently being denied over in Florida. This thought did not help with my digestion.

Rumour wise this week there was talk of Biden thinking about thinking about making a plan that may include allowing vaccinated folks in. My feeling now is that this probably won’t happen in time for October but I know nothing.

We now seem to be in a willy waving death match between Biden and DeSantis, the latter seeing the death of others as a stepping stone to a Presidential run. I always thought Florida’s stats on their own wouldn’t affect Biden’s overall decision on reopening the borders but again I was wrong. I would imagine Florida is the number one state for tourism and is also of course also the number one state for COVID, vaccine hesitancy and deranged Governor’s. Until things settle down in The Sunshine State I think any change to border policy is unlikely.

Maybe we are destined to perpetually move this trip back a month at a time for the rest of time?

Anyway, I can’t spend all day here. There are strangers on the internet with an incorrect opinion that I need to put right. It seems I am taking my frustrations out on vax sceptics on socials. It passes the time. My frustration at not knowing if we are going, still, grows almost as quickly as Florida’s COVID stats.

Till the next time…,.

Now Wash Your Hands

I did a gig last night. Yep, an actual real life, in front of people, at a private function real gig. It was a bit weird as the last gig we did was back in March 2020 a few days before the first lockdown.

Since then Mustard have swapped out two band members, pretty much all of our set and I may have gained a lockdown pound or two. So it wasn’t just a case of getting back on the horse, it was almost a totally different animal entirely.

There had been times since March 2020 when I did think that doing the band thing may no longer be something I did. Replacing band members, especially when you can’t audition or rehearse with them is tricky and there has been much of the process that has been a bit of a slog, but, we did it, we got to gigging and it was enjoyable without any major incidents or cock ups.

Look at all this normality I am enjoying. I’ll be going to work in an office soon if I’m not careful! Well, let’s not be too hasty on that ok? All in good time.

My highlight of the evening was when going for a wee. In the loos were oodles of sanitisers and soaps along with lots of signs about COVID etc. The three gents in there with me were chatting whilst doing what they had to do, and as I washed and started to dry my hands, imagine my delight as they all put “Fido back in the kennel” and walked out with bothering the sink in any way. As a race I fear we are doomed. I didn’t touch anything I didn’t own for the rest of the evening.

Despite the welcome normality of doing a hobby, the world continues to be pretty much on fire wherever you look. Cases here are going down, however that is being counted or managed, whilst hospitals fill up a bit. The US seem to be in a bit of a meltdown with parts of Florida declaring a state of emergency mainly as MAGAs who sulk because nobody gives Trump credit for getting the vaccine done so quickly, won’t take that vaccine as it is plot by Democrats and software billionaires to track their every move. Yep, that makes sense.

Masks are back at WDW indoors and all in all the worldwide eternal shit show continues. So I continue to sit and look at my plan, regarding it as an abstract thing, with no real basis in reality to speak of. My “will we go or not” optimism meter, today is low, but it changes, often by the hour so don’t worry about that if you are more optimistic than I.

Whilst October is a while away, with the US seemingly getting worse on most fronts across the board I have my doubts that Biden will move to allow tourists in by then. It seems incredible that all this time after all this started we still can’t go and still have no clue when we might. There are bigger fish I guess, but none quite as smelly to me and many who read this.

That previous statement makes it nailed on that within minutes of publishing this post there will be an official statement from the US that borders are opening, such is my track record on these things.

Florida is out there pretty much on its own in the “shit show” Olympics. Vaccination rates are below 60% and cases are up something incredible like 700%. I’m not sure how I acquired them but I have a couple of yeehaw MAGAs on my Facebook. I suspect they are Disney folks who somehow befriended me thinking I was the other Craig Williams who runs The Dis! Anyway, seeing their deranged, anti-science stupidity out there in public for the world to see is depressing both for the continuation of humanity as these people breed and for the prospects of holidays returning. You can have an opinion but one of them cannot be that science isn’t correct. That’s not how it works.

I was encouraged to see Disney enforcing vaccinations for its cast members and the US military doing the same. Of course some people cannot get the jab for valid medical reasons, but everyone else has to get it to protect those very people who will continue to be vulnerable for the very reasons they cannot get the jab. This isn’t hard.

So we journey on, with little certainty or hope that any of our trips will happen any time soon. Whilst it doesn’t keep me awake at night, it’s a rumbling groan in my subconscious. Having preached for years that you should go to WDW whenever the opportunity arises and never “wait till the kids are old enough to enjoy it”, missing these trips with Freddie is hurting a bit. Kids are only ever that age once and whilst he has no clue of course, in my own first world problem bubble, it upsets me that we’ve missed so much.

I’m sure we are getting somewhere close to the ADR window. I haven’t checked for a bit, there seems little point. That in itself is sad.

So I shall retire from the keyboard and this incessant whinging now and go and do not a lot for the rest of the day.

Till the next time……

Happy Birthday Emily…Don’t Burn Down The House!

As I mentioned last week, Louise and I are homeless this weekend whilst Emily has friends round to do birthday things, so I am trying out a fandangled way to schedule this post that was written a couple of days ago. The pace at which things are changing means that it will be even more irrelevant than usual but at least I tried.

Perhaps I should stick to safer ground than having any sort of opinion on the shambola of COVID and travel. It’s been a scorcher hasn’t it? It has looked lovely outside and the temperature almost matched that of my laptop that I have been chained to for almost all of the week.

Sleeping has been intermittent with the duvet abandoned for a single sheet and the precious fan we possess being trained on Oli rather than ourselves as we are big stupid soft buggers.

As mentioned above Emily has her birthday tomorrow and will be 26. Hard to fathom of course for many reasons…

  1. She was 12 last week
  2. She pretty much still looks 12
  3. I look far too young and athletic to be having daughters over 25.

But 26 she is and time marches on and the only constant is the appearance of the usual photos to commemorate the date. We start with a rare “not at WDW” photo from the archives.

OK, on to the elephant in the room and the crushing and incessant shitefest that is the hunt for an international holiday. Nobody could have predicted of course that case numbers here would rocket with daily deaths now inevitably following…oh wait…yes everybody could and that, very understandably led the US to put the UK on its “DO NOT DARKEN THE DOORS OF THESE IDIOTS” list. Whilst I long gave up trying to second guess what may or may not happen nobody can say that is a positive move at this stage.

The totality of the plan in the UK seems to be this.

Lalalala - Reaction GIFs

Maybe if we believe hard enough the virus will recognise that we’ve had enough now and pack its bags. The trouble is, even with packed bags no other country will allow it in as it is travelling from the diseased centre of the world the UK.

With the news of the UK being put on the US naughty list I have to say our collective hope for October lies in tatters currently. I just cannot see an end to this. I was going to put a timeframe on the end of that sentence but it seems pointless to do so.

Sigh. I miss holidays, Florida, WDW and generally not being in the UK.

Louise started a new job this week, still working in Community Nursing but with a new team. It’s always a strange time, with new things to know and learn, and a never ending pandemic won’t help. She appears to have survived so far.

My working week was an overwhelming cavalcade of too much to do and not enough time to do it with a highlight midweek of presenting to “the board”. These are the non Exec folks who preside ethereally over the company and unless you are made to present to them, you’re never really sure they exist. I remain employed so how badly could it have gone?

As we stand right now, Mustard (remember them?) are due to recommence gigging on July 31st. I say that cautiously, as between now and then is time for several U turns, backtracks and incompetence to put an end to the party we are playing at. We’ve put a decent amount of work into a new line up and a new set so that would be a shame.

So I hope this scheduled post thing worked and as you are reading this I will be out and about trying to find things to do until we are allowed home again. Modern technology is marvellous isn’t it. If it didn’t work then, you’ll be reading this much later than usual I suppose.

Till the next time……

50,000 Positives Is Why I’m Negative

They say it is darkest just before the dawn. Well, for those of us hoping to holiday in the US this century, dawn must be imminent because things are looking very bleak in my view.

All the major carriers are now cancelled up until late August, so that’s the school holidays goosed. To summarise a litany of glass half full thoughts, I’m struggling to find any positive indication that travel to the US for pleasure will be allowed any time soon.

Cases are soaring, both home and abroad and all in all it’s a bit of a shit show.

I have seen various rumours and quotes from random sources. A couple have been consistent, with both Fauci and some senior government official in the US “mentioning” September/Labor Day as a time when things will be “looking good” for international travellers to enter the US. Then last week there were noises out of the DHS (not Hollywood Studios!) in the US that allowing borders to open for tourists was definitely under consideration and that the President may offer some form of update in the next week or so. It’s the unerring certainty that I enjoy the most!

If that September rumour is true (and I think it’s the earliest it could happen) then it seems neither side of the pond have any appetite for allowing the school holiday masses to holiday in the US. Perhaps the fact that by then all adults (and maybe some older kids) will be fully vaccinated is the driver rather than any school holiday thoughts.

All in all, I’m a bit weary with it and this constant state of limbo for 18 months, with a whole chunk of change sunk into a never happening event is getting on my wick.

As if to rub salt into the confused wounds, there are things going on in and around Orlando with mask restrictions returning. WDW have not changed yet but I suspect they will. Whilst not a game changer to wear masks indoors, (and I’m supportive of continuing to do so over here where it is sensible to do so) this rolling back of progress is just another kick in the nads for hopeful holiday makers.

I think the most trivial yet disheartening thing is that all the usual build up joy has been sucked from these trips. Me papping on each week about what we might eat in a few months time and where, is part of the fun in doing these trips. Browsing menus, chatting about what looks good and how you can squeeze three sit down meals into one day is as much a part of the trip as actually doing thise things.

For those of us that plan these holidays you will know what I mean. Detailed and intricate timelines balanced on a knife edge just so you can ride some rides and eat some food may not float everyone’s boat, but for some it’s almost as fun as going on the trip itself. You know what I mean. The reason most of you bother to read this nonsense each week is probably because we used all the same internet communities to do exactly what I have just described!

Sure, at some point we’ll be normalish, and living with this thing in some modified way and just booking and then actually going on holiday, but I don’t know when that might be so I am well within my rights to pout and stamp my virtual feet all over this corner of the internet, incandescent with mild rage as to how unfair it all is.

So whilst you may find a few folks with a hopeful glint in their eye on various Disney related Facebook groups, buoyed by the “Biden may announce something soon” rumour, this week, you will not find that here I am afraid. He may well announce something but thinking it will definitely be positive news for us in the UK when we literally have the largest number of daily cases in the world, and I don’t mean per capita, is not something I can get on board with. I shall just welcome it should it happen.

It would not be too surprising to me should the official media of the UK government start to drop hints about a return to restrictions in the coming days and weeks, no doubt blaming the EU or foreigners in general. That is the beacon of light and joy I am with regard to travel right now.

Hey ho. October is some time away yet I guess and hopefully with the very clever and measured policy of *checks notes* completely removing any and all restrictions whilst case numbers are doubling in a week, things may very well improve quickly and dramatically, right? I mean there’s only about 50 people dying every day from this thing, so it’s all good.

As if I have a clue. Sigh.

Outside of pissing and moaning about holidays I spent another three hours mowing grass yesterday, Rebecca, Tom and Freddie are all ill and with negative COVID tests with some other bug it seems and next weekend Emily is kicking Louise and I out of the house so she can host a “small get together” to celebrate her birthday. The one positive for that for you all is that I may not be near enough to a keyboard to come up with more words of joy, hope and encouragement in a blog post. You can send Emily your messages of thanks on various social media channels.

I hope you enjoy the sunny weather of the next few days. If you close your eyes real tight and shove some cinnamon up your nose you might just fool yourself that you’re in Florida? OK, maybe not.

Till the next time……..

Give Us A Clue

I have absolutely no clue.

This statement is applicable to me on a regular basis, but right now, it has seldom been more true. It is both horrific and hilarious that we are sat here approaching 18 months into the pandemic and we still have no clue on whether we will ever be able to travel for fun again.

Why am I so befuddled? Well, I do try and look at the facts and what is going on and draw some sort of sense out of it. You will know from reading this drivel each week that I have been spectacularly wrong on a spectacularly consistent basis so I think it best I give up. Here are the current states of play that are causing me so much confusion…

  1. The UK government have declared the pandemic over and announced we no longer need to modify our behaviour in any way (in England anyway) in a couple of weeks.
  2. COVID cases are rising at a ridiculous rate and the R number seems to be somewhere around 14.
  3. The FCDO have changed their guidance and said it is fine to travel to the US for non-essential purposes pretty much on the same day that…
  4. Virgin and BA seemingly cancelled all flights until late August/early September.
  5. Hospitalisations and deaths are rising again but obviously at much reduced rates than before due to the vaccines.

Some of those things don’t seem compatible with each other. The government policy of herd immunity laid bare now worries me for non-holiday reasons, but in the context of going to some theme parks, I do very much worry that a country with potentially 100,000 cases a day in a few weeks won’t be the one the US really want to invite into their country.

I’m all for lifting restrictions and trusting the vaccines, don’t get me wrong. We have to get back to some sort of normal asap, but I’d just appreciate the feeling that those we have making the decisions could tie their own shoe laces. It would at least be helpful if both the UK and US governments would treat us as adults and share their thinking with us, so folks could make some sensible plans rather than the endless moving of dates and uncertainty we have now.

I have long stated that I think our government have little appetite for getting foreign holidays back up and running and would much rather we spent our cash here this summer. Or maybe they are terrified of letting Brits holiday in Europe as that would expose the joy of standing in a non-EU member passport queue for 12 hours whilst we marvel at our sovereignty.

The government here must know what they are doing….right? I mean, on the face it, letting the disease rip through the under 18’s and unvaccinated with no regard for long COVID or facilitating vaccine escaping mutations might seem like a stupid idea. I mean it would be like….

  1. Allowing the pandemic stockpile to dwindle to nothing so that when one happened nurses had to wear bin bags…..oh
  2. Sending schools back for one day in the middle of the pandemic so that the pupils could nicely infect each other before schools were shut again, taking their newly acquired COVID home to their older relatives….oh
  3. Telling the country that the PM thinks it’s fine to still be shaking hands with COVID patients in hospital at the start of a global pandemic…..oh
  4. Telling the country they could mix freely for 5 days over Christmas before then changing that to 1 day at the last minute when everyone had made plans…oh
  5. Deciding to send untested elderly people back into care homes to facilitate the death of thousand of grannies….oh
  6. Knowing that a more contagious variant was running riot in India and not restricting visitors from that country as the PM didn’t want to upset the chances of a trade deal, despite putting two neighbouring countries on the red list three weeks earlier than India…oh
  7. Spending £37bn on a test and trace system that at its peak was contacting 60% of exposed contacts….oh
  8. The bloke in charge of the nation’s health swapping spit with his mistress after being on telly every day telling us we couldn’t hug our families….oh
  9. Launching Eat Out to Help Out last summer which a University study claimed drove new infections up by between 8 and 17%….oh
  10. The PM’s main advisor blatantly taking the piss by having a trip out for his wife’s birthday undermining the adherence to lockdown rules for millions of people…..oh

Sadly, that list is not exhaustive and I could go on, and if you follow me on Twitter, I often do, but I list those things to demonstrate that those running the show have absolutely no clue what they are doing and are setting out plans based on popularity polls and pressure from newspapers and MPs they cannot afford to upset.

So on a daily if not hourly basis, my belief that we’ll be in WDW in October changes like the wind. I tell myself that there is no way the US will be letting our Delta riddled asses anywhere near their border anytime soon, but then reconcile that with the fact that they would insist on a negative test before entry and most folks would be double jabbed so maybe they would?

In an ideal world it would be great if the US said that double jabbed folks were welcome, and anyone not able to be so could provide a negative test very shortly before arriving. That would seem to be the most sustainable solution but I suspect it may not be that simple.

So where do I think we are with all that being said? Truly, I have no clue. However if Virgin and BA are now cancelling nearly all of August then it seems the US will not be an option until our kids are back in school. That still fits with our dates of course but we’ve been here before and who knows if I will be sat here moaning still in September as our October flights get cancelled too.

To make matters worse I now have to go and do some mowing. Insult on top of injury when all I want to be doing is planning with any degree of certainty which meals I will be eating in a few months time. Is that too much to ask?

The longer all this goes on the more weary I become and I may continue to lash out at those I perceive to be the root of the continued pandemic, as evidenced by the above. I am sure Johnson is terrified! I appreciate that not everyone will share my vitriol and blame assigning, but hey, it’s my blog and I can be emotional and potentially wrong (I’m not wrong) if I want to.

Till the next time…..

We’ll Be Back?

Another week rolls by and it’s another in which I have not shelled out five grand to sit in a cottage in Cornwall and look at the rain. You can still shove your staycation up your arse.

I would much rather shell out considerably more than five grand to stare at the Floridian rain thank you very much.

Still, the bumbling ball sack in charge continues to drop hints and leaks about what “might” be possible at some random point in the future. Hopefully in the coming days we will have it confirmed that July 19th will signal an end to restrictions here and those having enjoyed two pricks can travel to Amber or Green destinations without quarantine on their return. There will no doubt still be a ludicrously costly testing regime involved but if you insist on spending your holiday cash with them dirty “forriners” then they are going to get some money out of you another way.

Noises out of the US this week, from the President’s Press Secretary suggested the US would not be insisting on the vaccine to enter the country, but I would hope that those of us having had it would be afforded some advantage over those who have not. Ideally, double jabbed folks won’t need to test at all or at least not as much as those unprotected.

This comes amid endless Facebook group rumours about certain flavours of vaccine not being good enough for various things. This seemed to relate to the fact that the AZ shot has not been approved in the US. A quick look at the CDC’s web site confirms this is indeed nonsense and any vaccine approved by the WHO is fine.

This is just an inevitable symptom of endless uncertainty, stress and worry from those desperate to get away who have been starved of any real information for months.

On the never ending roller coaster of confidence levels in our current dates, I would say that I am as confident now as I have ever been that we may actually be back amongst the coasters and calories before too long. Whilst the Johnson Delta variant runs riot across the country still, the vaccines are working and keeping hospitalisations and deaths down and from Johnson’s bumblings on the news this week he seems intent on sticking to the July 19th date. Again, he did state we would be through the worst within 12 weeks over a year ago so there isn’t any breath held in this household.

The latest set of leaks and briefings do seem to suggest that the UK will be restriction free after the 19th of July. I’m sure we all have our own views on that and of course everyone should continue to act in a way that makes them feel comfortable. I fear somewhat for the unmasked and unvaxed in schools who seem to be part of some herd immunity programme, but Scotland have already begun their summer holidays and the UK is a few weeks away from that so hopefully that will help.

With that complete relaxation looking to be the case it would seem incredible, yet not impossible, to have travel restrictions in place at the same time. For those travelling to Europe, enjoy the queues to show your passport as you marvel at all the control we have taken back. Those of us who travel to the US have been familiar with the immigration hall queue and often steely glare from someone you just want to stamp your passport for some time.

Should we succeed in our battle to have a holiday I think it’s going to be busy when we are there. The 1st of October seems to be the date upon which Disney is unleashing the Kraken of new and re-opened things. It will be what it will be and we will deal with it.

Last week of course fireworks returned to the parks, Casey’s Corner opened and no doubt countless other things made a step back to “normal” that I missed.

I do, every now and again try to keep an eye on Florida case numbers etc but it seems that has stopped now. The graphs I used on Google no longer update daily and the sporadic numbers I do see seem unreliable. I guess if De Santis doesn’t let anyone see the numbers, he’s doing a decent job, right?

To reflect my dogged determination and current optimism around getting on a plane, next week, unless some world shattering event that I cannot resist forcing my view upon you happens, I am going old school with my post. I am going to share with you a day by day plan for our trip (as it stands) just like in the old days when you didn’t need a crystal ball and medical record to go on some rides. We still can’t book ADRs so it will be full of hopes and aspirations, but you’re having it anyway.

And to end this post on a note of celebration and delight, this week in the calendar is marked by an excuse to listen to two of the best songs ever written on repeat, not that I need such an excuse.

The 1st of July is Canada Day and as I shared during the week, you are compelled to listen to this for roughly 23 hours a day.

This attraction in World Showcase is currently closed, seemingly until September. If this is not open by October there will be strongly worded blog posts as an inevitable result.

Secondly, as today is July 4th, I join with my US brethren to celebrate their Independence and frankly, their lack of gratitude with this absolute banger that I never tire of hearing.

So we are now on a seven day countdown to see if I remember to blog my plan as promised. The anticipation and tension will only be rivalled by any updates from government about which rules they will no longer need to break whilst we follow them.

Till the next time…..

600 Not Out.

The life of a WDW obsessed freak is seldom a boring one. There is always some new thing, rumour or experience to obsess over. This past week has been a glorious extravaganza of news and new stuff, all related to the 50th celebrations of Magic Kingdom from October 1st.

Our move to the 3rd of October now seems like strategic genius until of course we are still not allowed to travel to the US until 2025 and we all have a collective nervous breakdown and sit sobbing in a corner remembering the old days when we could go on holiday.

So you will have all heard the news I’m sure. My weekly slot will never give you new information but here we go with the main headlines.

A new fireworks show at MK

A new fireworks show at Epcot

A new day time show at DAK

(By the way, Fantasmic…it’s fine to join in!)

Ratatouille ride at Epcot opens October 1st

Add to that the stream of daily news about restaurants and shows reopening and basically WDW is seemingly determined to show that the pandemic was a figment of someone’s imagination and normality has always been the norm. I’m all for it. If you’ve done your bit and had the jab (if you can) then we should be heading back to normal (whilst being sensible).

By the time we go (if we go), all of our party (Freddie aside of course) will be double pricked and ready to party.

It is ironic and painful to see this dash to normality in and around WDW when we are sitting here watching our case numbers sky rocket and our ability to travel is restricted to the UK and holiday hot spots such as the Falkland Islands.

It’s almost as if folks who should be concentrating on pandemic related stuff had other things on their minds recently and forgot to lock the door to a more contagious variant.

I’ve been mildly enraged by the incompetent and fraudulent handling of the pandemic for some time now, but luckily for you, I hide it well. With Hancock’s disgraced exit over the weekend I am noticing a good number of folks join me on that particular journey.

Let The Hate Flow Through You | Know Your Meme

The weapons grade hypocrisy layered on top of the fraudulent lining of their mates’ pockets and spectacular incompetence is too enraging for words.

If there had been any suggestion just a couple of months ago that we would be staring down the barrel of another wave, prolonged restrictions and still no holidays by the end of summer, even I may have believed that to be beyond the ability of government to achieve and yet here we are, with even our October dates still looking unknown and uncertain. Maybe we will just roll seamlessly into the inevitable winter lockdowns and really make sure the airlines die a slow horrible death.

You see, it is positive and cheery messages like this that has seen you enjoy endure 600 of these posts now. That’s right, I noticed as I started this one that I have to date posted 599 of these things and today will make it 600. Some may argue, and be absolutely correct, that this is about 599 too many, but on the odd occasion I don’t post, my inbox is full of a message asking where it is. I have to listen to the will of the people.

I suppose my growing anger is fuelled by seeing WDW racing back to normality and really, really missing being there and having any chance of rectifying that being pissed away by chancers with no concern other than their own personal gain and gratification. Let’s keep it about trivialities like holidays and not get started on what the NHS has been through or folks who have lost close ones and had to say goodbye on an iPad and not have a proper funeral.

And breathe.

So, by October, it’ll all be fine right? This is the equivalent of those unending posts on the various Disney Facebook groups where (daily it seems) some poor soul posts a

“We’re booked for (insert date a few weeks away). Anyone else still hopeful?”

This is followed by a mixture of views ranging from absolute certainty that by “then” it will all be OK and doom mongers who predict that anyone travelling outside of your own post code will be shot on sight. It’s just all so bloody draining isn’t it?

Yep, I’m tired and emotional. I have next week off work though so that’ll fix that. Next week’s 601st post will be a deluge of positivity and delight. Indeed, last week Johnson “hinted” that double jabbed folks may be able to travel “somewhat freely” at some unspecified point in the future to destinations not yet made clear. It is this clear and precise messaging that is the reason he is in charge.

Somebody take this keyboard away from me….

Till the next time……

One Date More…

Another day, another destiny, this never ending road to Kissimmee…

We move our trip another time, if we can’t go I’ll lose my mind,

One date more….

The time is early afternoon, the day last Wednesday. I’m at work, attending to things that don’t really matter, but somehow demand all my attention and time when somewhere in my “socials” I see the news.

Aer Lingus had cancelled all their Manchester flights up to the 30th of September. Well, that was just rude.

I’ll be honest. There was a period of around half an hour where I just sat and stared at my keyboard genuinely not knowing what to do. I mean, that is often the case with work related matters but seldom with holiday stuff.

Staring down the barrel of a fifth set of dates, the wind was well and truly out of my sails. I pissed about on the Virgin Atlantic website laughing out loud at their prices for our dates. I really, really did not want to have to pick up and move everything again, but switching airlines was clearly not an option.

We were moving. Again.

I think coming to that conclusion was the catalyst and kick up the arse I needed to spring into action. As much as I had cursed Aer Lingus for their out of the blue decision, when I phoned them, settling in for a few hours on hold, their automated message told me I could change my flights on their website. Virgin, take note. Also, Virgin, any time you want to give me my refund for the flights you cancelled over two months ago, that would be lovely. We are at the “our dog ate your refund” stage of excuses now. It’s bordering on fraud at this point.

The ability to move my own flights was excellent and allowed me to manipulate a series of dates to find the set that suited us best. I was resolute in my desire not to spend another bloody penny on this trip that never is, so my main criteria was getting flights for the same money.

It took some fiddling but I managed it. We had to sacrifice a day off the trip so it’s 16 days now, not 17, but to be honest the extra length of the trip was in honour of my 50th celebrations which seem so long ago now that it kinda feels right to sacrifice that specialness.

So with the flights moved, it was onto everything else. Our new dates are the 3rd of October to the 18th of October. We’ve been in October once before back in 1999, so we know it well.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, House of cards

I once again saluted the flexible nature of Travel Republic and Discount Florida Car Hire, who have made all this pissing about a lot easier. Alas, Hard Rock is not available for our new dates so we have defaulted to the Royal Pacific, as we have in the past, so no great hardship there.

I am getting incredibly efficient and effective at this now. Within about an hour I had cancelled/rebooked/moved almost everything I could. Two elements remained outstanding.

  1. Vero. Borrowing DVC points via a broker is probably not the wisest move in a pandemic as it seems we are likely to lose that cash now. Unless borders are still closed on August 20th, we won’t be able to get a credit note for our bookings. It stinks and I probably won’t use this company again, but it is what it is.
  2. Park tickets. The ones we bought, sometime in the late 90’s it now feels like, were set to expire at the end of September. My Dad’s tickets which at this point were somewhere in the postal system having only ordered them a few days ago may also have had a similar end date. An email to Floridatix was replied to a few hours later and it seems our dates had been extended and certainly for the ones I had in my grubby mits, I was able to book new park reservations for our new dates. Yesterday, my Dad’s tickets turned up and they are all park reservationed up now too.

I am very much over all this now. We just need to go on holiday.

I am refusing to let myself believe these dates will happen. I daren’t. Florida it seems is charging back to normality at lightning pace as we lurch back into more lockdown having pissed away all the benefits of the vaccine programme. These are just the latest set of dates in the diary. When we are sat on the plane, wheels up, I may let myself think we’re going.

Trying to fill my glass at least half way, if we go on these dates the 50th celebrations for Magic Kingdom will have started. I am telling myself that WDW will for all intents and purposes be back to normal by then and there will be lots of new things specifically for that anniversary that we may not have seen otherwise.

It will be Halloween. I mean, it’s Halloween in WDW from August, but you know what I mean. I don’t think we’ll do the Boo Bash thing as it seems pricey for what you get and I suppose we could try and do Halloween Horror Nights at Universal but it isn’t suitable for Freddie and Emily may well pass out with fear if we subject her to that. The weather will be slightly less hurricaney and we’ll be safely back in the UK before the half term crowds are unleashed on the US from the UK.

Last week brought all the usual speculation and reading between the lines on when travel may be allowed. Fauci was interviewed and seemed to suggest September and it makes you wonder if the airlines have been given some form of heads up to that effect that may have informed Aer Lingus’ decision?

Other rumours are that it will be late July/early August. From a UK perspective Johnson has seemingly painted himself into a corner, saying that July 19th is a “terminus” day and if that is the case there can be little wiggle room not to allow leisure travel at that point. The balance to that logic is that he also said we’d break the back of it in 12 weeks in late Spring 2020 so there is that plus an entire back catalogue of lies, incompetence and failure.

There are even leaks and rumours that double jabbed folks will be relatively unrestricted in terms of the faff required to fly etc. Nobody knows and if anyone thinks the clowns we have running the show have any sort of masterplan then I can’t help you. Literally every case of Covid we have in this country is the one that was allowed in from India by not adding them to the red list at the same time as Bangladesh and Pakistan. I know I piss and moan about governmental incompetence a lot but it makes me angry. Of course they are screwing our holidays up but think of all the businesses that had recruited and planned to open on June 21st. It’s gross negligence.

So as much I enjoy planning these trips, the ratio of five lots of planning to zero actual trips is not one I can get on board with. I am weary of it all and just want any form of certainty at this point.

Away from moaning about governmental incompetence and travel uncertainty, I will end today’s post with a Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and all those who assume that role in any form.

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From my perspective it is the best job in the world interspersed with occasional horror but it’s the only job I’ve ever had that I never wanted to change.

Join me here next week for more head in hands incredulity linked to the simple act of booking a holiday and going on it.

Till the next time………

White Van Man

Before we get started, for all of you that enquired about the hot tub, it’s sold. Sorry, I know that will be disappointing but I had to go with the highest offer out of the one I received on eBay, so to the none of you who expressed an interest, I am sorry you missed out.

So that was pleasing news this week. Cash in my sky rocket and the neighbours won’t need to bleach their eyes after seeing me sit in a blow up bath on the back lawn.

It’s been another rage inducing week of things getting worse Covid wise, with all the talk now of things not opening up. Biden met with Johnson this week of course and there is every possibility that having done so he launches the nukes rather than open his borders.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, mainly due to Aer Lingus telling me, honest Injun, that there were only four seats left at that price on our flight, we have had to take the plunge and get seats booked for my Mum & Dad. We’d hoped to leave things loose until later in the summer when things may be clearer about travel to the US, but their marketing technique worked and now my Mum & Dad have joined me in the speculation market surrounding holidays.

The “only four seats left” trick seemed a little fibby when I was able to request seats next to our existing booking with ease, but I am sure they were being totally honest. This triggered a series of other planning requirements that I executed yesterday. The complexity of the adding ons, rearranging and planning is high, but I am, I think, up to that challenge. My life to date has brought me to this point and I have developed a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.

Having done some research on vehicles that would accommodate our engorged numbers and all their equipment it seemed I had three choices. A 12 seater transit van type thing (with windows), a 15 seat monster or start taking lessons for my HGV licence. I opted for the first of those and we now have a “Transit van equivalent” reserved with Discount Florida Car Hire. Their flexible approach has been invaluable in all this mess. Way, way back when I was much more naïve, I had booked our (much cheaper) car hire with my usual US Rent A Car. I’m afraid their policies were still the rigid and expensive model if you wanted to make any changes so I cancelled them some time ago sacrificing my £50 deposit and haven’t looked back.

So, according to their web site this is the beast I shall be aiming down the I4 after a nine hour flight and little sleep.

So that we can secure theme park reservations for Mum & Dad an order has been placed with Floridatix for 14 day Disney tickets. They should come next week. They have heeded my advice to give Universal a miss on our first two days. It will give them time to recover from the flight, receive and get used to their scooters and not waste a chunk of change on theme parks that don’t offer that much they would wish or are allowed to do.

Two days by the Hard Rock pool should be a nice way to begin their holiday.

So it’s been a busy couple of days in the planning of the trip that never happens.

Outside of that I have fixed our boiler. I say fixed, it wasn’t really broken, and shouldn’t be, as it is pretty much brand new and state of the art, but that, like many things in this house was the problem. The previous guy liked a gadget and therefore everything is “smart” or has a remote control or both. All that had happened was a drop in pressure on the boiler. Now, I may not be the handiest of men but I have always known or been able to figure out how to do that. Not with this boiler. There was no tap or lever to do this anywhere. I watched endless You Tube videos in which plumbers skirted around the issue and when I did find a video about our specific boiler it seemed my guy had a non-standard option installed with regard to refilling pressure. Of course he did.

I even sent photos to a plumber (he asked I don’t send any more of “those” photos and keep it to ones of the boiler) and even he was stumped. After many hours, I took the front of the thing off again, pulled some bits down that were pull downable and there hiding behind a black pipe was a small brass thing. I tentatively stuck a screwdriver into it and turned and the sweet sound of rushing water and a rising pressure gauge told me I had cracked the Da Vinci Code. Why so hard?

Then, yesterday I moved onto the grass. Yes, I know I only moaned about cutting it two weeks ago, but it seems when I cut it back then I just made it angry and it has in that time put a lot of effort into making me mow it again.

I did two hours yesterday and got about half way down the field. I did briefly consider wonder how much it might be to pave the bloody thing, but I may be out there again today trying to tackle the rest. I hear lots of advice about getting sheep or similar, but we have enough pets thank you and that restraining order from the RSPCA is still in place anyway.

So, the plan has changed, again. The number of travellers increased on the Dibb Vacation Planner (the one thing I still use The Dibb for) and it now has more moving parts than our boiler. If you plan to be in Florida in September, firstly, let’s hope we get to be there, but secondly if you see a white van hurtling around WDW with two scooters strapped to the roof that’ll probably be us. Give us a wave.

Till the next time…..

Do You Wanna Buy A Hot Tub…?

I’m sure there is some legend or custom somewhere that says something like everyone endures their own personal purgatory or hell. For me, someone who has been known to enjoy a trip to WDW, this never ending waiting and re-booking of such a trip seems to be mine.

Like some memory deficient goldfish, each time I move the dates I am, in that moment, absolutely convinced it will go ahead. Then, sometimes, moments or days afterwards, I am kicking myself for my fanciful naivety as I stare down the barrel of another postponement and more admin and expense. How I yearn for the heady days of booking a holiday and then going on it.

To quote the leather clad love God David Coverdale, here I go again.

Classic rock glam metal GIF on GIFER - by Gardazuru

Another government briefing and a backward step in the hunt for a holiday. The only meaningful country on the green list is back to amber and with cases here rising by 160% recently, you can almost hear Joe Biden tutting in disappointment and disbelief that we did this to ourselves despite Matt Hancock pleasuring himself in public last week at how good a job he has personally done in delivering every single vaccine himself.

Experts have been warning (deja vu, right?) for weeks that because we didn’t do anything about incoming folks from India in early April, and removed masks in schools full of unvaccinated kids, re-opening stuff would lead to another wave but yet again, those “in charge” take action too late, driven more by their own PR and agenda than doing what is required. We didn’t need to be here.

So our nailed on September trip, unencumbered by masks (probably) now looks incredibly unlikely in my view. Why on earth would the US (or anyone) let us in when we’ve imported a more contagious and deadly variant just so we didn’t upset a country we need a totemic trade deal with to pretend that our self-inflicted collapse in trade with our neighbours is all OK?

Angry? Yep!

Sure, it’s only a holiday (and believe me, in real life, outside of writing this stuff each week, I know there are many more important issues and problems…more of which later) but let’s not forget the travel industry which if not already dead, is being stamped on repeatedly just to make sure. And if I see one more article or tweet about a staycation I will be kidnapping Judith Chalmers until this madness is ended. Not sure if she’s still with us, but either way….

I will be a long time dead before you see me holidaying in some rain soaked British “resort” spending thousands for an inferior experience I don’t want to have.

As if somehow subliminally I know we will be spending our summer in our garden we have been kitting it out with stuff. Recently I was fortunate enough to win some garden stuff via an incentive at work. So that included some of this ever so on trend rattan furniture, a voucher with which we bought a fire pit and a small hot tub.

On that note if anyone wishes to purchase a hot tub, still in box, for much cheapness compared to what John Lewis flog it for, then hit me up. It’s only a small two person inflatable thing but me in my budgie smugglers in the back garden is not something I wish to inflict on anyone so yeah, hot tub fans, get in touch and we can do a deal.

We also purchased a BBQ. So once the furniture arrives (it’s been a while already) our garden will be fully equipped. It’ll be fun sat inside seeing it all get rained on as I watch some more vlogs from a place we can’t get back to.

Yes, I am watching vlogs again. Having what I thought was a realistic chance of going soon put me back in the mood. How long that will last nobody knows.

In more upbeat news, last week both Emily and Tom had their first jabs. They aren’t officially old enough yet but they took advantage of one of the many walk in facilities currently on the go in Bolton as it is the new Wuhan at the epicentre of the global pandemic. Stu Francis will be mortified. A sore arm here and there aside they are fine and will both be double jabbed come the end of July.

I am now as of yesterday, a double prick. I have the sore arm and mild aches to prove it. To quote another musical legend, David Guetta, I am now Titanium.

In less nice news last week saw both Louise’s Mum and Rebecca enduring short hospital stays. Both are back home and hopefully on the mend, so whilst I do primarily rant about the lack of our holiday each week, do understand that I hold it in the appropriate level of importance outside of what you read here each week.

During last week’s extended weekend we hosted a BBQ. Discussions turned as you might expect to holidays in a certain place and my Mum & Dad, who probably had come to terms with the fact that they had done their last such trip began to consider another foray into the breach once we established that a scooter rental for the duration of the trip would be affordable. Slugging it out around the parks on foot is not an option for them now, but this would open the possibility of going again.

After checks with medical professionals, they were green lit and it does now look as though they will ride again, literally. We are now in the early stages of adding them to everything, in a measured and relaxed way, as we still do suspect the trip may not be allowed, so the booking of low deposit, cancellable things is being done first.

I am now looking at our car hire options and wondering what vehicle will take eight people and two scooters. Do they do double decker buses?

So our eternal flame of hope (how many pop legend references can I get into one post…..with that cap doff to Suzannah Hoff and her Bangles) still shines, if not a little dimmed from last week. Whilst I still sit cursing the incompetence that has us set fair for a fourth wave and international shunnery I still keep booking stuff and planning this trip that never happens.

Despite Roger Daltrey’s wise words, I will, it seems continue to be fooled again.

Till the next time……

June’s Too Soon

You will be glad to hear that I cannot bring myself to spew out another post all about the ifs, buts and maybes of a potential holiday. This will make for a beautifully short post for you this week. This is mainly as it is now confirmed that we definitely won’t be going in June. But for anyone who is looking for a summary of another crazy and fast moving week in the world of international travel resumption here is where I think we are.

  1. It seems clearer by the day that the US will re-open its borders to some at the end of June.
  2. Virgin seem to have pushed back resumption of flights to MCO to the 1st of July
  3. Although they denied this was the case when I contacted them. I suspect they want to rearrange/cancel all the May bookings before dealing with those in June
  4. There has been a ton of progress in terms of removing and reducing COVID restrictions in and around the theme parks
  5. There’s a roadmap for mask mandate removal linked to vaccination rates, and temperature checks and hand washing stations are all being removed from the parks sooner rather than later. The parks seem to be planning for “normality” or close to, over the summer months.

So as soon as Virgin admit what is going on I will cancel our flight with them and settle in for the wait for the refund, along with all the other cancellable bits booked for June and take stock as to what we do next and when.

As and when the border re-opening is confirmed for late June as is now widely predicted that will be good news for everyone booked for later in the summer. In line with the expected mask mandate roadmap, by the time we get to the late summer/autumn it could be that masks are pretty much gone and even social distancing will be lessened or removed. It is testament to the efficacy of the vaccines that this is looking possible. They seem to be much more effective at everything it was hoped they would do than anyone could have hoped.

Certainly by 2022, assuming the variants knocking around continue to be handled relatively well by the vaccines and whatever boosters are produced, then I think we should be able to start to dream of a Florida holiday as we used to know them.

So if you have something booked for July and beyond it is looking like you will be allowed to go if you wish. How do you feel about that? Are you going regardless of the remaining restrictions and testing requirements or have you decided to leave it until the day that we can think of a trip as “normal”?

There is still a lack of clarity around tests I think. Last week Grant Schapps said in an interview that the test requirements were no big deal as they were already offering everyone free tests. Those of course are lateral flow so was he saying they would be acceptable or did he mis-speak?

It was also announced that the NHS app will be your proof of vaccination. Because I am wired the way I am, I downloaded it to see if my first jab was there. It isn’t, so I wonder if it only shows up once you are fully vaccinated? I’m hopeful that in coming years, an up to date vaccination for COVID will negate the need for any tests but as ever we can only wait and see.

So as things take shape week by week, some clarity is emerging for future trips. Now it’s clear ours will not happen, it’s time to take a breath and some refunds and regroup. Alas, you will hear all about it as usual.

Till the next time….