C*ntry House

As the great poet and philosopher George Formby said, it turned out nice again. In what is and has been par for the course in Mkingdon land since our time on earth began, drama, crisis and faff are the currency in which we trade and somehow, inexplicably, often things turn out OK. There are many times they don’t of course, but let’s not go there.

I ended last week’s post with a minor fib. Forgive me. For those of you who can’t remember, didn’t read it, or really don’t care, let me remind you that I dropped a subtle hint of some upcoming kerfuffle with the purchase of our new house.

The seller, some five weeks after accepting our offer, still had not found anywhere to move to. This was causing our buyer and their buyer some concern and they were applying a lot of pressure to us to come up with some progress towards a moving date. Our seller also refused to even contemplate moving into rented accommodation to preserve the chain.

I get it. They were downsizing and finding it hard to find something that didn’t feel like a shoebox compared to their home of the last few decades, but it did not solve our issues and protect us from losing our buyer. We had looked at renting, but everything was a six-month minimum term and our menagerie of pets would have restricted our options to a field or a shipping container.

After several chats with our estate agent last week, their advice was to give our seller a deadline and start to keep an eye on what else was on the market as a Plan B, just in case. Unbeknownst to them (and Louise) I already had said plan B in my locker in the shape of a house I saw come onto the market just after we had our offer accepted on the original house. I had put it to the back of my mind, happy with our choice but as this situation developed I have to admit to looking at it, wondering if it were still available and half wishing the purchase might fall through so we could consider it.

So last Saturday morning I planted that seed in Louise’s mind. By 3pm, we were inside it (the house, not Louise’s mind) having a look around and by about 3.05 we were both exchanging knowing looks, certain that this had to be ours.

So taking our usual measured and considered approach, as we drove home from the viewing we phoned and made our offer. The vendor wanted time to think and would let us know on Monday. So you see dear reader, I knew all this last week but did not want to tempt fate or jump any guns by sharing it with you all.

The thing that sealed the deal for us was that the vendor had no onward chain. He has already bought a new house and is close to completing on that, so any issues with them finding somewhere to go were solved.

Monday came and as we had not heard by 11am I of course chased them up. What is it with people? Just do it. There followed a fairly intense day of negotiations and faff, resulting in an accepted offer at around 4.50pm, leaving me precious little time to inform estate agents and other interested folks.

We did feel bad about pulling out of the previous purchase, but, from their reaction, it feels like we did them a favour. They have “other stuff” going on in their lives, since agreeing to sell, and apologised for the lack of progress, wished us well and said they would take theirs off the market and come back to it next year. So we didn’t feel so bad after that.

What then followed was a week of very heavy admin, amending mortgage applications and informing solicitors to get everything moved over to the new house. Most of that is now done and so we now just wait for the survey, conveyancing and all the other stuff to happen before we can move. The estimated timeline seems to be January at the earliest.

Louise and I are both happier with the new place if I am honest. It is slightly further away from our current location, more rural, which is nice, bigger, better and just more suitable for our needs by quite some distance. Crucially, unlike the other house, Louise cannot think of any major works that it requires, so that’s just peachy.

It’s an old converted farmhouse and has retained a fair bit of land with it. It is a type and standard of house that we did not expect to ever be able to get, but for (almost) the same price as the other one, it seems we can, due to it being outside of our current location which carries a high premium due to the local schools. We care not one jot about schools at this point in our lives so that extra ten to fifteen minutes to get back to see our parents is worth every mile.

I do shudder at the thought of how braggy and crass all this is, and it makes me very uncomfortable (hence the title of this post) but you get all sorts shared here, the good and the bad, so I can only apologise.

So with another apology for the hideous nature of all this, here are some photos.

I’m looking forward to being a bit more out in the sticks and the dogs will love the extra outdoor space. So by feeling more genuinely excited about this new property than the previous one, I take from that it is meant to be and it, as I said at the beginning, turned out nice again.

Enough vomit inducing not so humble bragging. Let’s move on to vaccines and holidays.

The news of a vaccine coming within weeks was welcome of course. Many will have concerns about having it which is fair enough, but hopefully, it is a major step towards some form of normality. Looking at the rollout schedule, Louise will be eligible early doors I think as a health care worker, with the rest of our family then being fairly close to the end of the queue, so I don’t think this will rescue our March holiday if I am honest. Whether, once the most vulnerable are done, travel is opened up, I, of course, have no clue, but my thinking right now is that we’ll be more likely to be able to go in the late summer, when there’s a fair chance that most folks will have had the chance to have the vaccine and we may be able to move away from masks in the parks and social distancing.

Knowing Disney and their understandably risk averse nature, those two things may take longer still, but hearing about their recently announced losses, I would imagine they are very keen to get back to full capacity and no restrictions too.

However all that shakes out, it does seem that in the next six months or so, the worst of this may be behind us and that is at least some hope to cling to. The only trouble is, the longer we wait to go on holiday, the more airline seats I will have to book to cope with my work from home, lockdown inactivity ever-expanding girth which is accelerating at an alarming rate. How much are those ECVs to get around the parks? This whole thing has confirmed my thinking that it has only been WDW holidays and the fact that I had to leave the house to go to the office that has stopped me from eating myself to death.

I did ten minutes of gentle exercise yesterday and almost had to go to A & E. The long journey back to my legendary athletic build may be a long one, but as we get back to being able to look forward to stuff it may keep me honest and on it, which since March I have absolutely not been.

Till the next time……

New Non Surprising News?

Sat staring at the electronic blank page of this post I’m not sure how or where to start with this week’s effort. I suppose in the natural turn of events I would have entertained you with the latest set of tragedies and woes in our remake of The Money Pit, where I, as a slightly older, heavier Tom Hanks laugh maniacally as I stare into the abyss where my bedroom and will to live used to be.

I’m sure you’ve all been looking forward to that all week. In reality, we are through the worst now. The decorator comes tomorrow, the carpet on Friday and the electrician should be returning to do the stuff he couldn’t do last time due to issues with our wiring.

Then we have to choose some blinds when the blind man comes on Tuesday night. I don’t think he has issues with his vision though. It’s a ridiculously long road for the doing up of just one average sized bedroom, but we don’t tend to do things by halves in that department.

So yesterday, Louise and I were out delivering some quantitative easing into the stagnant carpet and furniture economy and something weird happened. It had been brewing all day, being first mentioned by Louise as we were tidying and waiting for the carpet measuring man and Asda delivery. I dismissed it as playful banter at first, but the topic kept returning to our conversation all day as we wandered from shop to shop and by tea time, it had moved from fanciful nonsense to almost a reality.

An online chat including the girls in the conversation happened to confirm everything and it’s fair to say they were very shocked by this turn of events. What am I on about? Well, we now we sit staring down the barrel of a Florida holiday this summer when I would have put more money on my hair growing back just yesterday.

Related image

I know you probably won’t be, but I’m in shock. Mainly as it was Louise’s idea and secondly that we’ve found a way to juggle stuff around and pay for it. If negotiating Brexit were as important to politicians as WDW trips are to us, we’d have cracked that nonsense in an afternoon.

So we have our dates mapped out. The complexity of agreeing on dates is more challenging than a moon landing. The NHS give out holidays to staff like gruel to workhouse kids so we have to wait until tomorrow for Louise to get official permission before we can press the button. I have Mustard gigs already booked to avoid disrupting and all of that and more is before I wandered into the minefield of finding flights with acceptable prices. It’s been a busy last few hours.

We *think* we will be going on the 28th of August. The party is me, Louise, Emily, Rebecca, Tom, Freddie….and of course Ryan, and I am just beginning the villa search. It will be as budget as these things can be. Disney parks only, hardly any or no on-site dining, instead grabbing counter service stuff or enjoying our wide range of off-site favourites and no extras such as MNNSHP etc.

Flight wise, it looks like Thomas Cook have direct flights for much cheapness. I say that, as on Kayak they show at £350ish, but by the time you’ve added luxuries like a suitcase, a meal and a seat reservation it’s back up to the £450 mark I would have expected. We’ve made the decision to get Freddie his own seat, even though he will still be just under 2 when we fly. 16 hours in economy with him on laps is a horror not to be entertained.

I know we’ve done the whole, “we definitely aren’t going this year” bait and switch a million times, and I am probably much more shocked than any of you, but this one really did come out of the blue.

There is much now to do, so leave me whilst I spend far too many hours obsessing over every small detail that could be better spent elsewhere…..NOT!

So unless the NHS holiday Gods deny us, we should have a relatively short countdown to our next adventure. Fancy coming along, virtually, of course? I mean you are welcome to go to Florida at the same time, but I’m not paying for you.

Let the planning, countdown and diet commence, we are going home!

Rebecca Beaches and CreamBeach Club


Till the next time…….

Airport Conventions

Well, here we are. The final post before our next adventure. At times I have seriously doubted that this countdown would ever end. It’s been a struggle I’ll be honest and one of the toughest to get through, but of course that may just be perception and me being a drama queen.

To add some last-minute spice to the mix, my Mum is hospital, suffering from some sort of virus/infection. She’s on the mend I think with some antibiotics and TLC and hopefully she’ll be home and fully on the mend before we leave.

As always seems to be the case, the final week at work has been a doozy, spectacular in its shitness, just to ruin any potential joy of knowing it is my last for a while. Work is doing its best to keep its icy tendrils dug deep into my being until the last possible moment . Hopefully, I’ll be able to switch the work brain off at Manchester airport as I remove my work email account from my phone for a couple of weeks with a deep joy.

Still no bloody FastPasses for Flight of Passage or Slinky and believe me, I’ve been trying. It’s personal now. I didn’t want to ride the bloody things anyway.

As it’s been far too long since we went away, the reminder of how stressful the final few days can be had been forgotten. There are a million things to sort out, mainly pet related, mixed with a good amount of work nonsense that I can’t detail here. Add to that my recurring waking nightmare of realising just when it is too late that I have forgotten something, and I will be delighted when we are finally on our way.

The holiday haircut has happened. Spending so long in the chair can be tiring in itself as I’m sure you will appreciate. Thankfully, it was a different chap this time, and one that doesn’t feel the need to make conversation. The toenails have been cut, and it is important that everyone appreciates this level of personal grooming. It’s all part of the million small parts that go into making one of these trips work.

We are so close now. I can almost taste that going on holiday excitement. The traditional by the door photo will need to be tweaked this time. Rebecca has had the audacity to go and live elsewhere, so she won’t be “home” on the morning we leave. Don’t worry, I will creatively solve this issue and we may even have some new photos and traditions now!

The early alarm call, the panic to get last-minute stuff into the cases, standing at the front window looking for the taxi whilst simultaneously shouting at females to be ready, trying not to get tearful whilst saying goodbye to the dogs and telling them you won’t be long, even though you will, and they have no idea what you are saying, and then the surreal journey to the airport. The sun is rising over the sewage works as we cross Barton Bridge by the Trafford Centre. The tiredness and adrenaline give a nice spaced out vibe as you’re new “what are you travelling in” clothes feel like you are wearing someone else’s gear. We are a beautiful mess of new trainers, bumbags and comfy pants.

As we come off the M60, I check Ryan for the 373rd time to make sure the passports are there and we then are deposited into departures, sweating slightly due to luggage exertions, craning necks to check the nearest screen for information on your check in desk.

The double-edged sword of wanting to be checked in within seconds, and knowing that in two weeks you would give several body parts to be right back at this point battle within your brain before security is endured followed by a huge breakfast, some WH Smith browsing and the purchase of some overly priced smelly liquids in duty-free precede us sitting at the gate with a Starbucks and a feeling that I’ve already put all the weight back on that I spent the last few weeks taking off.

This routine is so familiar it’s like a family friend.

Thanks for sticking with me during this countdown. Stick around for some social media action, including some Facebook live stuff as and when appropriate. Say hello, either online or if you happen to be over there with us, in person. Even if you don’t want to talk to me, which is understandable, you can have a photo with Ryan if you like.

We made it! See you back here on the 16th of September.

Till the next time……

A Peak At Planning

Right, let’s get the stuff you aren’t so bothered about out-of-the-way. I wrote a chapter this week. I appreciate that is not in the same prolific league as James Patterson, but with everything going on in my daily life that is a step forward and hopefully a catalyst for more. What I really need if I’m honest, is a good chunk of time to re-read what I’ve written to date and then do the book plan. I know that I have everything in my head somewhere, I just need to formalise it into some sort of structure, decide on the outcome of the book (no spoilers here) and that should enable me to write more freely once I know where I’m going.

I feel better about the whole thing now that I’ve broken the ice again.

Sadly, that huge investment of time did not leave me much (any) time for the planning of WDW stuff. All my plans start in the same format and always have. As soon as I know our dates I create a simple template of those dates in Excel with blanks to fill in…

There are some givens that go in before anything else happens…like the travel days and the fact that we’ll be in Magic Kingdom on the first and last day.

Then, I make a list of all the eateries we want to do. I appreciate that this may seem strange to some, but the importance of the food on our Florida trips cannot be over estimated. The challenge with this list is fitting in all the places we have fallen in love with and want to do again, whilst also trying all the new places that I’ve heard good things about. For this trip, with Tom being a first timer it has more of a greatest hits vibe as we want to take him to all of our favourites….and it looked like this…

Next, I try to allocate one of those dining choices to a day on the plan, bearing in mind how I want the theme park days to flow. Over the years we seem to have established a routine as to how we tackle the parks. We of course start with Magic Kingdom as this is the law, we then do Epcot, Hollywood Studios and finally Animal Kingdom. I suspect that this being the order in which they opened was not an accident to my subliminal planner self.

Of course, tradition dictates that our first meal on arrival day is The Outback at Formosa Gardens if at all possible, so that goes in first and the rest follow like this….

For this trip, due to the touring party make up, it’s a WDW only affair so there are many more rest days than there may have been for an adults only trip. This means we can have two days in each park and if needed do extra visits on the afternoon of rest days. It makes for an easier planning experience. However, it doesn’t solve the issue you can see at the bottom of the plan. Where on earth do I put Sanaa? We may have to just eat more on some days! I do have a gap for dinner on our first day. I’m reluctant to put anything in there that we need an ADR for as there is no way to know how young Freddie will be adjusting to the time difference and long flight so we may need to be flexible. I know Rebecca would just be happy with some corn dog bites from Casey’s.

On that note, we are going to try something new on our last day in Magic Kingdom. I have it down as a snack day. We’re going to take the opportunity to eat all the stuff available in and around the parks as snacks and counter service, such as the stuff at Casey’s and a couple of things we’ve never had in all these years, a turkey leg and a dole whip. Funnel cake may also be on the agenda.

So this is where I’m at right now.The only other piece of the jigsaw tentatively in place is the intention to do MNSSHP on Wednesday the 4th of September. Having had glowing reports from all last week, it looks like we have no choice but to do it and much of the advice centred around not doing it too early after it starts and not to do it on a weekend.

What happens now? Well, over the coming weeks and months I shall tinker and mess about with the finer details. At some point I typically transfer it onto the Vacation Planner tool on The Dibb. I don’t use the forums over there any more but that tool is useful. It is helpful as somewhere to record all your booking references, ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), flight details and that jazz.

What is bound to happen over the coming months is that I will come across some new dining experience that I desperately want to do and I shall wrestle with what to drop out of the plan….or of course there’s always the option of extending our stay! The latter won’t be a viable option this time due to the work/holiday restrictions of Louise and Tom so something will have to give should that be the case. I have already made the heart breaking decision to take Romano’s out of the plan and replace it with The Cheesecake Factory.

So there you go, this post turned unintentionally into a look at how I actually plan. I’m sure everyone has similar yet different methods. Let me know how you go about it so that I may shamelessly steal your great ideas.

Now, I must leave you as I’m off to a photo shoot this afternoon with Mustard. No, really, I am.

Till the next time….
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The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day One


Those familiar with holidays in Florida will understand that they are not simple and straightforward. With the advance of technology, it could be argued that the planning of them is getting more complex, with the need to use apps and web sites to arrange your eating and riding preferences many weeks before you will actually do them. This extensive planning is one of the best things about these trips, as it extends their reach into your non-holiday life and the excitement builds for months before you step on a plane.

If there was a scale of complexity in holiday planning, then I think the one you are about to enjoy with us would be a contender for the top ten. Some of the easiest trips we’ve had over the years have involved just the four of us (my wife and two daughters making up the four) and have gone like clockwork. Should you wish to read about any of our previous trips you can do so in my books or various places online.

This trip, by intention and design turned out to be one of the trickiest and most complicated adventures we’ve done. Much of that was down to the size of the party. Here’s the full cast list for you….

Me – Craig, forty something Dad, blogger and trip planner.

me kitchen sink

You know what I look like, so here’s one from the archives!

Louise – Wife, mother, sunbather and red wine sponge.

louise bag on head
Emily – Eldest daughter, twenty years old, Disney nut job, soon to be Cast Member.

1emily yummy

Rebecca – Youngest daughter, eighteen years old, glamour puss, selfie expert and drama queen.

model 2

Sarah – Rebecca’s friend, also eighteen, party starter, bundle of energy and Florida first timer.

sarah pic

Tony – My Dad. Grandad, full-time golfer and apprentice Alzheimer’s.

dad pic

Margaret – My Mum, Nana, full-time golf widow and semi-pro shopper.

nana pic

Add to the mix that Rebecca left her boyfriend behind and her need for WiFi would exceed that for oxygen, Emily would be starting work for Disney during the trip and the enormous range of ages in our party and it was clear that my planning skills would be tested to the maximum. It is hard enough consulting busy day guides and planning our activity around food consumption, but then you add in the unknowns of Emily’s shift patterns and training and the day-to-day itinerary gets to the point where you throw a six to start and see what happens from there. You’ll know that I am calm and relaxed about these things, so none of that would be a problem, right?

So this trip, in many ways would be a landmark one. For a start the kids were no longer kids (yet I’m still paying for them somehow!) and Emily would stay behind in Florida, completing her own personal fourteen year journey from Disney fan to Disney Cast Member. For that reason and a few more besides, this journey would be an emotional roller coaster (this is getting like the X Factor!) and things after the trip would never be quite the same again.

With that in mind, if you are still willing to join us then step this way as we begin the Adults Only Tour 2015.

Day One – Thursday 27th August

This trip started as most tend to with a very early alarm. During these early pre-flight hours I am the veritable busy bee, charging around the house doing stuff that nobody should when they are technically on holiday. At something past 4am I found myself emptying the bin, changing cat litter and generally tidying the house in preparation for anyone wishing to break in during our trip. More of that later!

What I didn’t know was that instead of undertaking these non-essential tasks I should have been concentrating on more important stuff, like making sure those travelling were awake and out of bed. With the taxi due to collect us at 6am, I casually poked my head around Rebecca’s bedroom door at about 5.20 as it seemed, quiet….too quiet. The reason for the quietness was that she was still asleep! She had slept through her alarm and she would now need to fit her three-hour getting ready routine into about fifteen minutes. I left her and her bottom lip to it, unable to reverse time for her and I set off to pick up Sarah from her house, which is about five minutes away. I arrived early, which, as Louise will tell you, is often the case. Sarah was up, dressed, ready and full packed. She had passed the test and would indeed be allowed to come with us after all. As we drove back past our house, I noticed that the house next door was in total darkness. This, you may think is not the most unusual thing to see at 5.30am, but you should know that my parents live next door to us and they to, should by this time be up, awake, fully packed and ready to go. Once parked up, I called them. They were the second part of our touring party to have slept through their alarm and they now had minutes to get ready too. Any sane person would have banned them from the trip at this point!

I returned home to find nobody as ready as I wanted them to be so I made myself a brew. My backside had been in contact with the couch for many seconds when Emily sent me a text (from her bedroom) asking me if I knew where her birth certificate was. This was the same birth certificate I had told her to locate about six weeks ago, knowing that she would need it for the endless Disney admin involved in starting to work for them, as Emily would during our trip. I casually started to rip the house apart to find said document and thankfully did so without too much stress and aggravation. This sort of last-minute panic is yet again evidence that no matter how long your countdown, how many months you have to think about this stuff, there will always be something you wished you’d done that you didn’t!

Once located, I took the birth certificate up to Emily in her bedroom, who still wasn’t ready, to find her suitcases still open and half her stuff across her floor. I could immediately tell that they would stay that way forever without some form of intervention. Grabbing stuff from Rebecca and Louise that would obviously not fit into their cases, I stuffed that into Emily’s cases and got them closed and ready to go. It says a lot that Emily, packing for eight months away had more spare room in her cases than anyone else did!

The taxi was five minutes early, which was not helpful as nobody was ready. I herded lots of females downstairs and hurriedly assembled some of them in front of the front door for the traditional photo. The rushed nature is obvious as –

  1. The front door behind them is open as my Dad had just come in to see why were not outside yet
  2. The girls look ill prepared for such a momentous occasion.

As stress levels were peaking about now, my camera decided not to work too. I had to quickly swap over to my phone to take these pictures. This was not the smooth start I had wished for.

I now wrestled seemingly endless luggage out to the cavernous spaces within our mini bus and this made me moist. It’s an odd fetish, but each to their own I say…don’t judge me.

Rebecca said a lengthy and tearful goodbye to Tom, her boyfriend, for which I was very sympathetic and allowed her multiple seconds to undertake. With everything and everyone finally inside the vehicle by 6.10, we finally set off for the airport. We had the “if you have tickets, passports and money, anything else you have forgotten doesn’t matter” conversation, which is sort of true unless you left the gas hob turned on or the bath running.

As we set off I got my camera out and had a fiddle to see why it wasn’t working. With a little coaxing it went off in my hand all of a sudden, which wasn’t a first for me. I suppose expecting it to perform immediately after months of inaction was wrong of me!

This is what the road from our house to the airport looks like, in case you were wondering. The jaunty angle is intentional and artsy don’t you know.

At this point I needed to ask the good folks of Manchester what on earth they were doing on the roads pre 7am when I have a holiday to get started? There was far too much traffic in our way as we navigated the narrow chicanes between the endless cones of the M60.

Having made the mistake of arranging the taxi for 6am, rather than the 5.30 my guts told me would be correct, we were now, with the fifteen minutes of lateness added in, forty-five minutes behind my ideal schedule. This was to be pretty much the case until we landed back in Manchester in just over two weeks from this moment. We made our way to the check in desks (9-23) for Thomas Cook and joined the frustratingly long queue. It didn’t take too long to get to the front and with only minimal tutting and bottom lip protrusion, we were done, and as we seem to have to do every time we make this journey, we had to drag one heavy case over to the special drop off point rather than wave it off onto the convenient conveyor belt behind check in.

Some may tell you that I am careful with money. I rubbish those claims now by telling you that I had personally invested in a security fastpass for all seven of the touring party. How joyous I was to discover that it was an absolute waste of time, as for the one and only time on the entire trip, we encountered no queue at all. As we got to the bit with the trays where you have to take all your clothes off and have an anal probe, a young security chap was in attendance. Rebecca and Sarah were up first and as he told them they would need to remove their jackets he couldn’t suppress a smile and leering look as they thrust their assets unintentionally their way.

As Grandad approached him next to fill his tray, he made a comment to said security guy about his lustful expression and the young chap admitted it was a perk of the job. His expression then changed slightly when Grandad pointed out to him that I was Rebecca’s Dad and she was only just eighteen. Surprisingly I then breezed through all security checks without a pat down or even a second glance.

Unfortunately Grandad was not so lucky having left his iPad in his hand luggage as it went through the X-ray machine. One body search later and we were all ready to go and find some food.

Here are the Rebecca and Sarah post security.

We had a Giraffe for breakfast, which was an interesting offering I thought as usually we have a fry up. As always seems to happen, the greeter at Giraffe was stressed, sharing tales of them being busy and service being a little slow. How could they possibly know in advance that breakfast time on an August morning in a major airport could be a little busy?

Here, I have to warn you, that my usual practice of listing out what everyone had and taking photos of it will be a little hit and miss on this trip. With a party this large, it is often impossible to hear and/or remember what everyone had and by the time I get the camera out those served first are halfway through and almost on dessert. Anyway, I do my best….

Me and Rebecca – Healthy Nut Bowl (this is not some sort of sporting cuppage device). Rebecca also ordered some eggs.

Louise, Grandad and Nana – A fry up of some variety

Emily – Brekkie Burger

Sarah – Sausage, bacon, egg and beans

For reasons that were never made clear, Sarah’s turned up on three separate plates. I get that she asked could she just have Sausage, bacon, egg and beans, rather than the full fry up offered, but the multiple plate thing was strange.

We all had juices, teas and coffees and Rebecca and Sarah had a cider, reflecting the prospect of them not being allowed to drink for the rest of the holiday. The bill was £89.

Once fed we split up into smaller groups to wander the shops. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t shake Louise with her inconvenient knack of buying stuff and Emily came with us too. Louise got some perfume which was in no way overly expensive causing me to sulk at the preposterous idea of spending that amount of money on a small bottle of smelly water. We got some snacks and stuff from WH Smith and then wandered to the gate, meeting the others there.

As usual we sat and watched in awe as folks created a huge queue to board the plane on which they have a reserved seat and waited in comfort.

When the queue was this long….

we joined it. At this point, I have recorded in my notes that I was already exhausted after a busy and stressful morning. I may be getting too old for this.

I challenge anybody to correct me on my assumption that no plane in the history of aviation has ever actually left the tarmac at the time it is supposed to do so. We pulled back from the gate a few minutes late and then taxied for what seemed like a couple of hours before engaging the engines properly and getting on with stuff.

Louise had popped her medication at the gate and now enjoyed, as she always does, the joy of take off by gritting her teeth, squeezing my hand occasionally and screaming out loud at every bump and change in engine noise. A good flyer, she is not. I must say though that this year both outgoing and on the return were two of the calmest flights I have done with her. The fact that we were both in tears for most of the return journey was probably a distraction, but you’ll need to stick around till the end of this whole thing to find out exactly why.

I’ll just point out at this point that the end that I refer to above may be some time away. You may have noticed that we have only just taken off and I have written a small novel. Hunker down…..get comfy…..we’ll be here a while.

So, we looked at this for many hours.

We upgraded the in-flight entertainment systems for £4 each which was worth it. See, smiling faces!

Louise made regular checks on the wings and engines. All seemed well.

Grandad did what he always does.

Still there, still not on fire.

Emily tried her best to catch up on some sleep, but Nana was having none of it.

We bought a few rounds of drinks…yes, bought.

We would have to see a doctor upon landing to see if we could get that phone surgically removed from Rebecca’s hand.

I watched American Sniper and enjoyed it and then enjoyed the bangers and mash. It left me feeling really bloated, but I always do after airline food, I don’t know why.

I was disgusted to see that after many hours of flying we were still just outside of Leeds.

If you follow my blog at all, you may have picked up that the build up to this holiday was long and at times complicated and stressful. It was now, as we sped our way to the magic that I could actually feel the de-stressing process starting to kick in. I was wound tighter than Rolf Harris’ belt buckle in cell block A, and it would be a few days yet before I really did feel the benefit.

I made the schoolboy error of going for a wee at the wrong time and due to the movement of trolleys and trolley pushers found myself stranded at the top of the aisle whilst they made their slow progress up to me. I was missing for about half an hour and Louise was getting quite concerned as I had the money and she wanted another drink!

I filled out the white customs form at this point, as usual cursing the lack of space in economy as I inevitably dropped the pen and had to fish around for it under my legs unable to fully bend without smashing my forehead into the seat in front.

Next, I watched Kingsmen, which passed some time, although I thought it was about twenty minutes too long and I think Emily did actually get some sleep at some point. Yet more drinks were purchased at vast expense without so much as a grumble from me, as my Diet Cokes were currently costing me about £25 a round.

With still many hours ahead of us in the blue yonder I waded into the third film of the flight, Tomorrowland. Again, it was OK, without rocking my world and it saw me through until our descent into Orlando began. It was at this point that the teenage girl sat in front of us said “We’re going down now”. She said it again a few minutes later. In fact over the next ten minutes she said it more than twenty times. I counted!

Resisting the urge to throttle her with my headphone wire, we made our seemingly endless drop into Orlando and hit the tarmac at around 3pm local time. Each year, I tell myself to relax and enjoy the journey and each year I fail. This year’s journey felt particularly full of faff and my aforementioned stress levels probably didn’t help things. I was very glad to be on US soil, but still tense at the thought of all the upcoming faff before we’d be set free onto the roads of America. As it always is on the Manchester side, the airport experience for me seems massively over complicated. Folks are always checking the same documents you had checked five minutes ago by someone else and you get asked the same questions multiple times too. I’m all for thwarting terrorist activity but unless my tracksuit bottoms were made from explosive hemp, I don’t think I look like much of a threat.

At baggage reclaim, we were the cliché that is getting all your cases but one very quickly and then standing tutting as the last one comes off last. Whilst waiting for the last case, which by the way, contained nothing of mine, I glanced at one of the last barriers between us and a car, that being the food/white form checkpoint. No queue existed which pleased me greatly.

Of course as soon as our last case was in our possession it looked like a crowd scene from Les Miserables and I was certainly Miserable about it. I made the queue go more quickly by tutting and huffing expertly and we were finally free, to join another throng of people waiting for the monorail. We inevitably made the “Por Favor Mantengese” joke (and if you don’t know what that is, we can’t be friends) as the doors closed and sped off to the main part of the airport. Once there, signage was bobbins and we wandered around a little until we found that we needed to take an escalator down one level and then a lift down again to the hire car places. At this point my heart rate was at Olympic marathon runner levels with excitement and stress, so imagine my joy as the lift doors kept re-opening every time we pressed the button to close them. It took about three minutes to get going, which I know doesn’t sound a lot, but, just close your eyes and count to 180…and imagine standing in a lift, one tantalising floor from your hire car and the growing queue to pick it up.

The queue I mention was in reality about ten minutes and I know I say this every time, but what are you doing at the hire car counter for longer than five minutes? There were people there with sleeping bags rolled out and lawn chairs as they chatted seemingly without a care in the world to their agent from Alamo. When it was finally my turn I thrust my documents and credit card at the chap, gave him my best “I’ve been up for twenty hours and I don’t want an upgrade” glare and let him push his buttons rather than mine.

He did try to sell me a toll pass thingy, at which I sneered with haughty derision. As I turned from the desk with our car now literally throbbing in anticipation of our arrival just over the road, Sarah, at that moment sat on her case and promptly fell off it with all the style and grace of me ice skating. I left everyone chuckling at that as I tore across the road to the car garage at incredible speed. I flashed my credentials at what I hoped was an Alamo employee and he was suitably impressed enough to point me at a row of cars to choose from. We had discussed spending some time choosing the best one for us, as since booking the car, for a party of six, Emily had joined us and made it seven, so we knew space would be tight on this one trip from the airport. In the end, we went for the nearest one and spent a good few minutes trying to get large objects into tight spaces.

The result was pleasing and left me sweaty and out of breath.

I think the crowded car and long journey had tipped Nana over the edge.

Don’t even ask me how Rebecca managed to swap sides mid-journey! I was busy driving!!

The journey was painless, due to the use of Sat Nav, which we bought back in 2010 and had been one of the best $60 we’d spent on US soil.

We found the villa with little swearing and I hopped out to undo the key box, release the key and let the holiday really begin. Call it stupidity, lack of sleep or, well yes, it was stupidty, but there were two boxes with a combination on the wall outside the villa, one at eye level and one at shin level. For some reason I only saw the latter and spent far too long trying to open it with the wrong code, again getting hot and sweaty. Just as I was about to drive the car through the villa’s front door to gain access, the top box was spotted and opened easily. We were in.

It was lovely. Mark and Tracy had left us a lovely welcome package too. Don’t worry, Mark and Tracy own the villa, they didn’t break in to leave us some treats.

Within minutes bodies were in the pool.

I spent my time unpacking a bit and seemingly putting about seventeen different things on charge.

Next, was the important job of figuring out how the TV worked, which, for the next two and a half weeks, I remained the only person in the villa competent at doing so.

After a little while hunger forced us to get ready for some food and as tradition dictates it would be the Outback Steakhouse up at Formosa. We left the villa at 6.30, tired, excited and hungry…the other dwarves couldn’t make it.

Our server reminded us about everything we love about the US dining experience and we ordered -(bear in mind my early caveat about tracking everyone’s order in a larger group).

We started with cheesy fries and a Bloomin’ Onion of course…with the complimentary bread. This eating is serious business!

Emily’s lack of sleep cannot prevent her smiling as it went down.

Nana, Louise and Rebecca – Chicken Caesar Salad

Me – Australian Cobb Salad

Grandad – Talpai (which was, and probably still is, some form of fish)

Emily and Sarah – Burgers

With wines, beers and other drinks it came to $153 plus tip. Full and flagging we dragged ourselves around the supermarket to grab some essentials which somehow cost us $130. On the way back to the villa I tried to use the force and left the sat nav tucked away. I did OK apart from completely missing the turn into our development a handful of times, so the sat nav came out along with my bottom lip and we finally got back at 9pm. This of course was 2am UK time and about twenty-two hours since we last slept, apart from Grandad, who had about six hours sleep over the Atlantic. He was still asleep first!

Till the next time……

A New Year, A New Hope.

As I spend my traditional post Christmas break Sunday wondering if I’ll fit into my work suit tomorrow, I welcome you to 2015. I embrace the new year with an unusually positive outlook as it signals the confirmation of the official sighting of light at the end of a very long tunnel. Indeed for a good few years, I wasn’t even sure where the tunnel was, or what light might look like, but with Louise due to qualify and start work in April, a return to normality and solvency is so close I can taste it.

The road to qualification has been very tough (as I have mentioned on several hundred occasions) but the end is in sight and praise your Lord for that. However, before I get too happy clappy, for all of 2015’s promise it hasn’t covered itself in glory yet. Last Sunday night, Emily went out on her work’s Christmas do, had a few too many and fell down a six inch step. We then spent that night in A&E and a subsequent follow up a few days later as it was getting worse. Thankfully there was no break, and after a few immobile days and starting the year on crutches she is now able to at least put some weight on it and hobble about. She was most upset that this meant she couldn’t go out on New Year’s Eve but alcohol and crutches do not a good combination make. She and her boyfriend stayed in whilst Louise and I went wild, going to the pictures and then getting a take away on the way home.

At the same time as Emily was incapacitating herself, Louise had the nerve to go and get Pleurisy. So to complete the tour of health establishments we spent Saturday morning at the emergency doctors and she’s been in a bad way for a few days, again starting the new year on a high. There are signs that the drugs are kicking in and hopefully a few more days will see her right.

Despite the dodgy start, 2015 does have the potential to be better than many of the years which have preceded it recently, but let’s be honest that won’t be too hard. Louise starts her job in April, we have a holiday booked for late August to the best place on the planet, Rebecca completes her studies and strikes out into the world of employment in early summer and in what will be a busy and emotional month Emily begins her American adventure in April when she starts work as a cast member for Disney.

With Emily’s countdown now under 100 days it is starting to become real. Plans need to be made, visas obtained and excitement needs to be enjoyed. I know she’s a little nervous about the whole thing but that is to be expected as it will be her first time away from home, and it isn’t exactly around the corner. She’ll be fine. I may be a gibbering emotional wreck, but she’ll be fine.

Our countdown is now 234 days and with the turning of the year, planning and anticipation have been allowed to kick up a notch. I have today marked my calendar to note when I am able to make ADRs (not that we’ll need many) and of course when we can try to get some FastPass+ things booked too. It’s all part of the countdown process and I like it.

I have hinted at some planning changes recently so I shall bring you up to speed. We had a very emotional and upsetting end to 2014 as in the last couple of months of the year Rebecca’s relationship with her boyfriend disintegrated and they are no longer together. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved to outline the ins and outs here, but of course he was a knob, behaved atrociously and our lives and holiday will be better for his absence. I will not entertain any suggestion of bias!

So with flights and all sorts booked for him this caused some problems of course, but thankfully with some persuasion and negotiation I have been able to transfer the flight to Rebecca’s best friend, Sarah, who I am delighted to say will be traveling with us for her first visit to Florida. She is giddy beyond belief at the prospect. Here she is…

sarah prince

Speaking of Rebecca, she has done a bit of modelling recently. One of her friends from school has started her own clothing business, and she had Rebecca showing off some of her range. I know I am biased (again) but she did a great job.

The company Urban Route can be found here, and I’m sure any support or orders will be appreciated, but other than that do have a look at Rebecca’s efforts in the photo gallery.

model 1

model 2

So welcome to our Disney year. I am going to get giddy as the weeks go by and I make no apologies for doing so. Should you also be in planning mode, but find yourself struggling to find the time and/or information then a Disney pal and Florida blogger has launched a new venture, Disneynine Florida Holiday Planner, which you may find useful. Do have a click though and Like and use as you see fit.

Till the next time…..

What a Week That Was!

As weeks go, outside of those we’ve spent on US soil, this one just gone has been one of the best. I’ve done little else but tell you all about Emily’s good news since we heard last weekend, and this week has been all about paperwork and finding her a flight. The flight search ended towards the end of the week with her booked on a Thomas Cook flight on the 7th of April from Manchester. She has decided to travel out in style in Premium Economy, which handily gives her 46kg of luggage allowance. Her main worry now is how on earth she’ll get it off the baggage carousel once she is in Orlando!

There a million practical considerations now coming into play around her journey and her time out there, but we have plenty of time to sort those between now and April.

Emily has finally blogged again too.

Rebecca has also played a blinder, demonstrating once again her impressive drive, determination, confidence and maturity by getting off her backside and finding a way to make best use of her talents, and some money! For those that don’t know she is studying Media Make Up and Hair at college, and part of that is how to do horror make-up. With Halloween coming up she has been advertising her skills, and has secured a whole host of bookings in the local area to make folks up on a gory fashion for their Halloween parties. She is very, very good at this.

rebecca gore 1 rebecca gore 2

Seeing how much demand she had if you fancy it for next year, I’d get in touch with her now!

So having felt blessed with good fortune for most of the week, it ended on another high. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that Louise had started to apply for jobs, even though she doesn’t qualify until next April. She thought it might be a little early, but from her first application she was asked to attend an interview on Friday. She was of course very nervous, and had no idea how she had done, but just a couple of hours later she got a phone call to offer her a job!

This was a special moment. You’ll know, because I’ve moaned a lot, that this past few years have been very tough. We thought it would be, and we were right. Louise gave up a good job to take the brave step of re-training at an age I’m too polite to mention. So of course financially that hurt, but it has been tough in many other ways. There has been stress, silly shifts, lots and lots of hard work, and weeks on end when we haven’t seen Louise as she was locked away at the computer doing her latest assignment. So Friday’s news was very sweet indeed. Relief, joy, pride, excitement and then for Louise a few minutes later, fear at actually having to do the job for real.

To add extra cherries on top of our very large cake, the job she has secured is exactly the one she wanted at the local hospital where she desperately wanted to work. She will be a Recovery Nurse in the Operating Theatres and we are still both a little numb and disbelieving that this has happened. As you know, I am a professional self pitier and woe is me merchant so I am unused to dealing with such scenarios. I think I could get used to this.

So there you go, a great week in the Williams household. I am trying to squeeze every last drop of joy and enjoyment from it, as I know these weeks are rare. I mean, what else could have happened this week to make it any better? Well, of course here is where I go off into another “We’re not going to WDW” rant. I would but…


Yes, if Carlsberg made weeks, even they wouldn’t have been able to come up with this one.

To be honest with you, we’ve been thinking about next year for a little while, but until Emily’s fate was known we couldn’t make any plans as we didn’t know who would be travelling. So as soon as she was sorted, I moved quickly, as you might imagine, to make the plans into reality.

With Emily over there for a year, there is no way we could not go over there to see her. We have booked for next August, and with everyone out of school, college and university, we are able to travel a little later and not have to pay the ludicrous school holiday prices. We have only booked flights at this stage, as of course we have a long time to do everything else. We fly out on the 27th of August, and we are staying for an indulgent 18 days.

We have booked our flights with Thomas Cook, as we really wanted direct flights and Virgin continue to market to millionaires only it seems. Having paid north of £650 for indirect recently, and seen very similar prices for indirect again this year I was delighted to secure flights, including Premium Economy on the way back, for £580 each.

There is a new line up for the trip too. Returning to the cast list after a few years off, are my Mum and Dad, who are keen to see Emily of course, and for the first time, we are taking a boyfriend with us. Rebecca’s Tom will join us on the trip, making his debut as a cast member of one of these adventures.

Our plan is to get a villa, so that Emily can stay there with us as her work schedule allows, and we hope to do a night on site at Universal so that we can do the new Harry Potter stuff. Having spent all my time recently ignoring any Florida related news in a sulky protest, I now need to get up to speed on how these band things work, and this booking your Fastpasses up front malarkey too.

You shall, of course be subjected to every twist and turn of the planning and build up. It could be a long few months for us all.

I cannot promise that next week’s blog will be as chock full of joy and positivity, in fact I can probably guarantee it won’t be, as a lottery win aside I’m not sure what else could top this one.

Till the next time…..



The brief blog about being back

So we’re back.  It is as grim as you might imagine, and me booking today off was an absolute stroke of genius.  Louise has not been so lucky and has started her new placement today at Chorley A&E.

We had a great time.  Leaving this time felt (for Emily and I especially) even more sad than usual.  There is a real malaise and sadness that I can’t shake, but I’m sure that will clear in the coming days….won’t it?

For Emily the end of this holiday signifies the end of her childhood in some respects, and that may explain her upset and sadness.  What my excuse is I don’t know.

With this feeling hanging over me, each time I look at my notebook, and think about starting to write a trip report my heart sinks, and being honest I cannot bring myself to put fingers to keys right now.

One thing I have decided is that I’m not going to rush it.  Normally, I write a day in about an hour or so, and get them posted as soon as possible.  The endless correction of grammar and spelling I have (and still am) going through in my book has prompted me to make sure I take my time with this one and only post it when I’m happy.

If it does end up in an ebook sooner or later this will make my life easier and your reading less frustrating.  For those of you who bought my book on day one I can only apologise for the mess it was in!  It isn’t as bad if you buy it now!

Writing it more slowly and maybe even writing the whole thing might be the way to go, so please don’t be anticipating it any day soon.

So I’m off to lick my wounds, eat some more and try to prepare myself for the horror of the commute and work tomorrow.

The trouble with having great holidays like this is that the come down afterwards is worse than doing cold turkey off hard drugs (I imagine!).


Till the next time…..