A Pandemic Prick

As a fully-fledged, badge-wearing social media keyboard warrior, armed with nothing more than an opinion and a mood swing, I often attempt to put the world to rights. It doesn’t look like it’s working, to be honest, but whichever omnipresent being you subscribe to loves a trier.

Similarly, when I look back at the content of these posts each week since the pandemic started, I have contradicted myself more frequently than a government press conference. Theories and thoughts about how this pandemic will play out, specifically, relating to my ever so important holiday, have been a pick ‘n’ mix of ever-changing word vomit. This week shall be no different of course, but I feel better about things when I demonstrate a least a soupcon of self-awareness.

With the ever encouraging news around vaccines, it finally looks as though there may be an end to all this. It will be a more welcome prick than all the others we have endured so far in this pandemic, myself included.

With that news, I have of course, outside of proper worrying about real, important things, been applying these new facts to our holiday and how it all fits together. To keep true to form, I am literally having arguments with myself, simultaneously getting excited because March isn’t very far away now and fretting about how hard it will be to rearrange everything for late summer as March will absolutely not happen.

I try to keep informed as best anyone can with zero actual qualifications and knowledge on a subject so here, let me present the cases for both as they are forming in my mind.

  1. It won’t happen

The vaccine will probably start to get deployed in December. You need two jabs, a month apart and then there is another 14-day waiting period until you are “immune”. That alone takes us deep into February even for the first to be jabbed to be sorted out and then before any form of serious relaxation of restrictions for anything can be relaxed, including non-essential travel, it will need to be seen that these steps are keeping the level of daily deaths down to “normal” levels and hospitals aren’t busy with COVID patients.

The above only really applies to the UK of course. Many of you will have gathered that I have little faith in any competence being displayed in anything COVID related by our current government. Surely….surely they cannot mess up the vaccine rollout? It is literally the thing they have been praying for which will allow them to not have to focus all their time on the pandemic and get back to their routine agenda of punishing the poor, destroying our relationship with Europe, enriching their friends, removing our freedom of movement and intentionally making us all poorer because they don’t like foreigners.

However, we also have to consider the US in this equation. With the soundly beaten former President barricading himself into the Oval Office and his golf cart, refusing to allow a smooth transition, this incredibly and unforgivably will have an impact on the speed and efficiency of the US rollout of a vaccine. Assuming Biden can’t do much until the orange one is dragged from the White House in late January, then their timescales are inevitably pushed back. It’s not a question of course of whether the parks will be open, as they already are, but of course, more crucially are US borders open to us and then as a special bonus point, are the parks able to stop insisting on masks and social distancing.

I put it to you, m’lud, that all of the above result in us having to move stuff again.

2. It will happen

The aviation and travel industry are on their knees. As soon as the most vulnerable start to get immunised, then the rest of us can be a bit less careful and social distancing rules could be relaxed and things can start to open up again. These industries will be crying out for help and the earliest possible resumption of their normal schedules. As long as the most at risk are taken care of, and advised to continue to self isolate until their vaccine is effective then economies may return to some form of normality.

A member of Sage, the medical folks, not the accounting software, today has suggested that in the UK, early Spring could see the “lockdown” stuff being relaxed as the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Could it be that our departure date, being the 1st of March and a signal that winter is over, be the actual date flights resume and we are on the first flight out to MCO, cheering, waving and being greeted at Orlando by cheerleaders and Joe Biden?

I rest my case(s).

On balance, the former seems to outweigh the latter if I am honest. The 1st of March just seems too close for everything to fall into place. As much as I like planning and booking stuff, the pain of doing so again fills me with dread and a foreboding of more expense as there is always more expense.

I already know our villa isn’t available for the rough dates we might like to move to and I am also filled with the horror of how busy everything might be in the late summer if things are normalish. I cannot cancel our villa and book another one now as I would lose the hefty deposit we have paid until travel is confirmed as not possible of course. Flight availability, a lack of decent villas and crowded parks are just the tip of anxiety iceberg.

As ever, these are trivial issues in a non-trivial situation, but hey, I need something to blog about right? It hasn’t helped (you) that the last week was a complete non-event house move wise, with no news, drama or updates to moan about. On that note, thanks for all the lovely comments and messages last week about our intended new home. Thank you for at least attempting to limit your eye rolls and disdain for the distasteful boasting. Once we’re in let’s have a blog reader house warming party. All three of you can stay over too.

Till the next time…….

Un-Presidented Joy

I’m Craig Williams, in Bolton and THIS is CNN.

What a surreal week it has been. Not that I have missed a moment of work to do so, but I have watched CNN for about five days straight. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. It has been its own parallel universe of interactive maps and incredulity at how long it takes to count votes. If nothing else, my geographical knowledge of America has increased by about 3000%.

Before this week I have dipped into CNN from time to time. If I screw up my eyes really tight and eat something that tastes of cinnamon, I can almost imagine I am in Florida whilst doing so. This week though felt like a week of holding my breath. This won’t be a political rant but, it was nice to exhale yesterday when the result was confirmed. I know little about Biden and have no idea if he will be a great President or not. In my view, it doesn’t matter who replaced Trump, just that somebody did. The rest can be worked on.

Getting back to the recent core focus of this blog, and whether we will be able to go on holiday at some point on the future, will this change make that any more or less likely? I have no clue. I’m an increasingly overweight alleged middle manager in a northern backwater and my insight into global pandemics is not something I would include on my CV.

I was really encouraged to see one of the first things Biden announced was his intention to at least have a go at sorting things out. He was taking briefings on the virus even whilst waiting for the results and has now said he is going to set up a task force to tackle it. The pleasing change is that it will be led by actual experts and scientists. That’s got to beat trying to ignore it, right?

Whether that will mean the timeframe for the US opening up to overseas tourists will be closer or further away is anyone’s guess. If they make a significant difference quickly then it may open up the borders, or if they know they have to play it safe and keep things closed for longer then it may not. Either way, I still suspect our March 1st departure is unlikely right now and we may have to go through the pain and expense of rearranging one more time.

I’m strangely sanguine about it and will just be happy for the adults to have a go at sorting it. If only the UK would take the same approach. The latest update there is that the £12bn test and trace system is currently managing to contact about 60% of people exposed to the virus. You can’t go to the pub, cinema or see your elderly parents but your kid is sat with 30 others in a small unventilated room with no mask. I for one cannot understand why we sit in the foreboding shadow of a second wave.

This very strange “Que sera sera” attitude towards a WDW trip is very unlike me and I suppose the intense focus on the house move is probably responsible for giving me something else to fret and obsess about. Perhaps once that is sorted I will be back to rocking in a corner listening to the Epcot Futureworld loop music.

As there is literally no better use of your ears (other than listening to O Canada) then I will point you at this. It is just ten hours of Epcot loop music, but you can always just start it again when it finishes.

Should we have to move the trip again, then I suspect we would move it to late summer, to pretty much a year after we should have been there. That’s a kick in the guts, but for my sanity’s sake let’s hope things are normal enough to do fun things again. Heaven knows how heavy the crowds are going to be whenever that happens. I’m not saying we won’t be there, enjoying the fact that we can jostle shoulder to shoulder with other folks to get a decent view of the fireworks, but I do think the park reservation system will stay for a while to cope with something other than the limited capacity due to a pandemic. With the prospect of the parks hitting full capacity for some time once restrictions are no longer needed, that would make sense. It’s far from ideal of course, but right now, that’s a step forward.

House wise, there is a sniff of some kerfuffle on the horizon as our seller still hasn’t found anywhere to go and is refusing to contemplate going into rented accommodation to save the chain. It’s been a month since they accepted our offer and we and the rest of the chain below us are all some way down the road now in terms of conveyancing and surveys etc so we are starting to apply some pressure (nicely) as there is a risk that buyers below us in the chain may get tired of waiting and look elsewhere, seeing the whole thing crash down. We have some options and tactics to pursue as next week begins so stay tuned for a bit more stress and hassle.

For those of you who know how well I deal with uncertainty, it will not be a surprise to you that the house and holiday situation are causing me stress, heartburn and a lack of sleep. To once again highlight the cruel injustice of the world, where some people see higher stress levels as a route to weight loss, it would appear my body needs triple its normal calorie intake to cope. This may not end well.

Till the next time……

A Prick Of The Conscience

Moving house, or attempting to, seems to elevate your waking state to a constant mild hum of stress, with occasional peaks. Mostly, I am just sick of people being in my house, be that for valuations, energy certificate surveys, viewings or as we had last week our buyer’s survey. Those with dogs will know the pain of corralling them away from visitors so they do not love them to death and potentially scare folks who don’t do well with dogs. It’s just all a bit of a faff.

From the second the surveyor left our house and we began the wait to hear the results, we did, of course, think that would return all sorts of negative stuff that would either reduce our sell price or completely scupper the sale. Our glass was on its side, rather than in any form of fullness, half or otherwise. We felt a little battered and bruised by the rough and tumble of the short process to date.

Last week I also spent a silly amount of time on the phone to the bank formally applying for our terrifying new mortgage. The chap from the bank now knows more about us and our spending habits than our immediate family. Again, we now await the decision of that jury. Waiting and stress. It’s just a lovely combination.

I don’t know when we might move. I guess there’s an outside chance of it being before Christmas should winds be blowing in the right direction and no hitches be encountered. Our estate agent has warned that the stamp duty exemption has created a spike in activity and solicitors are and will be busy so things may take a little longer than normal. For a process that is not known for its swiftness, this may mean we will have one last Christmas in our current house.

Of course, should the survey show our house was held together with sellotape and spit and was worth about £7.50, then the whole thing would be irrelevant and we’d be back to square one, just minus all the money we’ve now spent on surveys and other move-related things. Did I mention elevated stress levels?

Anyway, on Friday morning we received a phone call to confirm that our buyer’s mortgage offer had been issued, meaning that the survey was all good. This was good news of course and now meant that the harsh reality of moving was very likely a thing we’d have to actually go through with. Between now and then we will have to undertake one of THE biggest declutters the world has ever seen. Yesterday I began the enormous task of clearing out our cellar. Imagine a place where for eight years you have put stuff you don’t really need but don’t want to throw out. Well, now that has caught up with us and I’ll be rectifying it at length.

What I really need is some form of holiday or break to look forward to. Luckily I have such a thing booked for next March. How I am looking forward to that definitely going ahead.

I have to say that I have pretty much-made peace with the fact that this will not be happening. I would love to be convinced otherwise, but I cannot see anything that will significantly change between now and then. I do of course hope that very shortly the US gets a President who is not incompetent, deceitful and seemingly intent on killing his own citizens. If the US gets something like a plan in place that’s got to help, but it doesn’t fix our issues or open up the airways from the UK to the US.

Should we not be able to travel by March, I’m not sure what we will do. I suppose it will depend on the cancellation policies of the companies involved. I suppose we would rearrange to a later date again, mainly as I really fear for the future of many of these travel companies and want to spend some money with them to keep them viable for when this is all over, but the temptation to cancel the whole thing and come back to it when some form of normality is available is growing.

Florida seems to be doing OK if the published figures are accurate. I say OK, in the context of the number of deaths every day is stable as is the number of new cases. The theme parks seem safe, mainly as they are doing a good job of mask enforcement and social distancing. Maybe there’s a clue there for the rest of the world? Crowds are growing it seems, with Universal yesterday reporting that the parks hit capacity by mid-morning. Nobody really knows what capacity limits the parks are operating at, but with so little open in most parks, queues are long.

As that, of course, doesn’t look too enticing, some part of me thinks it would be better not to go in those circumstances, but another part of me would just like to be there.

The wild card in this game of holiday roulette is a vaccine but within the timeframes, we are working in, that seems unlikely. Would I have it? Yes. I suspect other countries might insist on incoming visitors having proof that they have done so, and for that and many other reasons, I would gladly endure the prick. However, I will not endure any prick who comes at me with anti-vax bollocks, and similarly that the COVID virus and resultant death toll is a hoax. Facebook is awash with “medical experts” spewing up this shite and if it’s not too much a contradiction, I wish a pox upon their collective houses.

I try not to let that make me too angry as it isn’t productive. These days, as you will know from my Twitter activity, there is much to bring despair and anger to daily life and the world is not in good shape. I keep that political stuff out of my blogs as nobody comes here for that. However, this week I am going to make an exception without apology. The decision to not provide food for kids who might need it over the school holidays was an abhorrent disgrace and I just needed to get that off my chest. How anyone can make peace with that is an absolute mystery to me. Sure, some parents are a bit shit, and maybe a few fit the Daily Mail stereotype of pissing their meagre funds away on iPhones, cigarettes and Sky, but even if that were true of the parents of every hungry child, how on earth is that the fault of the children? Honestly, if you can imagine any child in your life being truly hungry and without food and be able to imagine not doing whatever it takes to feed them, then please read another blog. Sigh…..

Let’s get back to more normal topics. For now, the whole house move thing is proving to be stressful, but in a way, a welcome distraction from fretting about the holiday every minute of every day. Even I have a limit as to how many things I can stress about at once.

As that house move shifts into the realms of reality, we are now confronting the “problems” of where all our stuff will go in the new place. This brings to light the lunacy of buying a house. It is odd, is it not, that the biggest purchase you are ever likely to make is decided upon within the few minutes you wander around a house. Now, as we have to think practically about what we will have and do in each room, I realise that I can’t actually remember most of the rooms in any detail. I say that as if I will have any input into those decisions. Of course, Louise will be doing that.

Let’s pull this meandering rant to a close with a collective wish for that vaccine. Ideally, all the medical experts from the Facebook comments section will be recruited into the teams trying to come up with a vaccine so that their undoubted expertise can speed things up.

Till the next time…..

Being 50 Is A Beach…..

You may have noticed that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement about my imminent birthday. Firstly, as a milestone, it was one that just confirmed I was old(er). Secondly, of course, I was in the wrong country. However, in a turn of events that bucks the trend and tone of recent weeks, I had a really lovely day.

It started as planned with a round of golf with my Dad. Having played about three or four times this summer, there were actual signs that I knew what I was doing in short bursts and it was very enjoyable. The weather was glorious, and as we sat out on the patio outside the clubhouse enjoying a post-round beer, my brother phoned me from France, where he has spent the summer at his cottage. He was just about to set off on the long drive back to his imminent quarantine and he called to wish me a happy birthday.

On my return home, everyone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the day as lovely as it could be. There was a US themed lunch laid on, with almost as many calories involved as I may have eaten had we been in WDW. Hot dogs, cupcakes, cheesecake, Danish (is that the plural?) and all sorts of other wonderfully unhealthy snacky delights were on offer alongside this glorious cake.

So I spent the afternoon eating food and receiving gifts, which is always a decent way to spend your time.

There was everything from cash (always welcome) to useful stuff I needed like clothes, alongside lots of really thoughtful stuff that blew me away. Rebecca and Tom put together a really lovely photo collage which had been framed and will take pride of place somewhere in the house once it gets moved from its current location on the mantlepiece. Louise had the absolute nerve to buy me a new rucksack, suggesting that it might be time for Ryan to be replaced. Do I want to replace Ryan? As Rebecca said when I’d unwrapped it….

Cut It GIFs | Tenor

Amongst the many things my Mum & Dad got me, the highlight was this lovely keepsake. This will be worn as I walk Rebecca down the aisle next year and generally looked after as a lovely memento of turning 50.

Emily had put together a photo/music presentation, (in addition to getting me some Vans cos I am a cool and trendy Dad who is well down with the kids) which it turns out mainly included photos of me with food all over my face. It chronicled our trips over the years and the ever-increasing number of my chins, but it was lovely, and at the end, there was “just one last thing”…..

The final photo bore the caption….. The Beach Club was looking forward to welcoming me back.

Lousie and the girls know this is my favourite resort. No, that’s an understatement. It is one of my favourite places on the planet. They have arranged a night there during our trip in March for Louise and I. The fact that they had the absolute nerve to amend THE PLAN was forgiven. Having very sneakily got access to it without my suspecting a thing a few weeks ago, they have expertly dropped this addition in, without too much disruption and I can’t wait.

All in all, I was overwhelmed with everything and the huge efforts everyone had gone to in order to stop me sulking like a huge man-baby.

Of course, as soon as the “festivities” were over I had to fire up the laptop, dive into the plan and make sure the new addition was properly catered for. I am not known as a complete control freak for nothing.

They had done well to be fair. It bodes well for the years when I am no longer able to do all the planning and just need to be wheeled between meals and fireworks shows. Our stay is on the night of what would have been my birthday had we been there now, with that day seeing us in Epcot with (ADRs permitting) brunch at Beaches & Cream and dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion. So being able to wander back to the Beach club afterwards works well. Tom will have to assume driving duties and transport everyone else back to the villa.

The next day was marked as Volcano Bay, but it would be wasteful to leave the Beach Club early in the morning to do so, so that has been sacrificed so that we can spend the day at the resort. The others will spend a leisurely morning at the villa before joining us at some point for some rest time at one of the quiet pools there. That evening has hopes of dinner at Whispering Canyon, before the next two days being spent at the Hard Rock at Universal. This detailed level of planning pleases me greatly.

So after a lovely bank holiday Monday, I have spent my week off work mainly eating all the glorious leftovers from the celebrations. I have eaten more high-calorie crap this week than I may have done had we been in WDW. A bold statement, but the scales back up this claim. There has been some unavoidable unpleasantness in the form of DIY, but overall, so far being 50 has gone quite well.

As evidence of some sort of acceptance, I don’t even know where we should have been on this day had we been in WDW. If that isn’t a demonstration of maturity and personal growth, I don’t know what is. Being 50 might be good for me.

Till the next time……

World Class Whinging When WDW Wasn’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Feeling and Falling Down

Holy moly I am missing WDW.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

Black and Hacked Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Nursery Nopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

There’s a long history of me being fortunate enough to spend my birthday in WDW. I can’t remember a bad one and today’s events, as yes, it was my birthday, ranked very high on the all-time list.

Touring World Showcase has been a regular event to celebrate my body ageing and resembling a deflating balloon just a little more, and again, we had Epcot planned. Today, however, had a little more meaning than usual, as this would be the last time that I would be watching Reflections of Earth on a birthday.

ROE has been a huge part of our family trips over the years. Indeed, it started on October 1st 1999, which was just a few days before the first visit for the girls, so for that, and many other reasons it has taken on a very special place in our lives and of course our trips.

This birthday started regrettably early at 5am. I refused to leave my bed until 7, reading and internet browsing until that time. I made my way downstairs eventually to be greeted with cards and presents and some football on the telly. I enjoyed some breakfast and Man United failing to win in equal measure and at around 9am, Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home.

Half an hour later everyone was loaded into the van and we made our way to Epcot and Discover 12. It was a short tram ride to a drop off point that led to a walk to the entrance which was longer than the tram ride. Once through security and the finger scanning I took the chance to commemorate the occasion with an “in front of the ball” photo with Freddie.

Today’s FastPasses, having not been made on the morning of our park visit, were in much better shape, represented by Soarin’ being our first. We set up baby swap and Rebecca and Tom sat out first having a drink and some cake in the food court in The Land.

The rest of us made the long walk to the ride.

I have never used the standby line for this ride so I always try to see, with interest, what the interactive stuff is over in the muggle line. I am interested, but not enough to actually queue up to ride.

We enjoyed, as we always do, Patrick’s safety briefing and then the new film for Soarin’. It’s just an excellent ride.

We took over care of Freddie, finished off the cakes Rebecca and Tom had bought, and Louise got some breakfast having failed to prepare by getting some back at the villa. It was a breakfast croissant and some potato things, the latter of which Freddie ate most of.

Once we were all reunited we made our way out over to Nemo. Walking out of The Land, I did so with Freddie walking beside me, holding my hand. It’s these lovely little things that stick in my mind.

It was a walk-on and a welcome sit down. We had a look around the fish and stuff, which I suspect are not their formal Latin species names.

By the time we left, it was 11.50 and time to execute my extra cunning piece of very cunning cunningness that I teased in a pre-trip blog weeks ago. I do fear that I oversold this as some stroke of planning genius, but I shall reveal all now, as long as you promise to keep it to yourself.

One thing that we don’t enjoy about watching Reflections of Earth is the crowded shuffle all the way down to the main entrance, followed by a wait for a tram or a long walk to the car. With that in mind, we always try to tie a viewing of the fireworks at Epcot with a dining reservation somewhere around the Boardwalk so that we may park there. This allows us to leave Epcot via International Gateway, which is not only better than the other option, it is actually a pleasant experience and a lovely stroll.

This year, on this birthday, having lunch or early dinner in any of those locations was not an option as we very much wanted and had booked to eat at Via Napoli. So, bending the rules ever so slightly, I made a rogue ADR for two at Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club.

The idea was that, now, Emily and I would power walk back to the car, drive it round to the Yacht Club, using our ADR to get access to the parking, and then walk back into Epcot to continue our day. Doing this of course does mean that there is a fair chance that you may get charged the $10 per person for missing your ADR, but frankly, that cost is bearable for the six of us to be able to have a leisurely stroll back to the car after ROE, rather than the battle to the main entrance with a stroller and a tired Freddie.

So there you go. If you want to use that trick you can, although, I did find a better trick that we used later in the trip. If I tell you now, you will have no incentive to keep reading, so try not to lie awake thinking about it.

When we arrived at the little house where the security guards live at the Yacht Club, I had my photo ID to hand, and a quick scan of my Magic Band confirmed to him that I did indeed have an ADR and we were waved through. It worked better than we thought as the self-parking at the Yacht Club was pretty full, and he directed us to the Beach Club parking which is that little bit closer to International Gateway.

As we always do when visiting here, we take photos as some sort of homage to how much we love it.

I think this photo has featured in more trip reports than I have.

When I’m having to endure a cold, bleak, work-filled day at home, sat in meetings that make me question my career “choices”, that photo above is where I wish I was instead.

It’s open now of course, but at the time, I had to lift my camera above my head and the boarding to sneak a photo of the new Skyliner station just outside International Gateway.

We discovered that everyone else was down near Mission Space so Emily and I made our way down through the UK and Canada to meet them.

It was a skin crisper today. Not so much hot, as human barbeque.

In another example of ninja levels of planning, just as we met up with everyone, our FastPass for Mission Space, booked 30 days ago, became active. I’m not saying I am good at this stuff, I just let my record speak for itself.

Louise sat out in the unbearable sun watching Freddie who was having a snooze in his shady stroller. As we often tend to do, we waited a little longer than we should have due to some lightweight leaving their lunch all over the ride. We entered, praying that we weren’t sat where the vomit just was.

After a successful mission, and a moment’s silent mourning that we no longer see the wonder that is Gary Sinese’s hair in the now-departed briefing video, we left to find Louise and Freddie.

It was very much lunchtime now and because we knew it was about to get bulldozed, we chose Electric Umbrella just in case it never returns. I didn’t mobile order here for some reason and instead stood staring at the board like it was the first time I had seen words, or food, blurting out numbers to the order taker. Yes, I’m one of those that order here by number.

Alas, the number I got wrong was the members of our party and when we got to our table, I realised, that as I often do in these situations, I had ordered for everybody other than myself. I really couldn’t be arsed queuing again so Louise and I shared a cheeseburger and a few choice words about my incompetence levels.

To make amends, as everyone was finishing up, I left the table and power walked around the corner to the Joffrey’s coffee stand and got us some dessert in the shape of three doughnuts. They are a size of which I approve.

Rest assured, Freddie shared that with his Dad and that means he didn’t get that much of it. These things are awesome and delicious in all sorts of ways. Get some.

We did some wandering around Mousegear and then made our way over to Journey Into Imagination. It will not surprise you to learn that this was a walk-on. After riding I finally had to admit defeat and go to a restroom. I can only hold it so long. The rest of the party took Freddie up to the dancing water fountain things, with which he was fascinated.

Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.

It was a walk-on. I await my refund from Disney for this insult.

After riding, Tom went to retrieve the stroller from the ride entrance and Freddie did some modelling whilst we waited.

Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.

I captured some photos of the area, knowing that it was about to be changed forever in just a few days.

Freddie enjoyed Crush and sat through the whole thing pretty well. With that done, it was time to make our way up to World Showcase. The plan now was to say our goodbyes to O Canada, as we had recently heard of an impending revamp and I was very much not OK.

I had checked online before leaving the UK that it would still be open on my birthday and I had, I’m sure, seen that it would be. Upon arriving, a cast member was stood at the top of the steps informing guests that it was now down for refurbishment until January.

I rugby tackled him to the ground and opened several cans of whoop-ass all over him. It made no difference and he point-blank refused to open up the show just for me. I have to say that I was very upset not being able to see this one last time. Please, just give me a moment…….and please appreciate one more time the glorious majesty of this song.

We continued up to the UK and across the bridge towards France as we were now on our way to Via Napoli. As some sort of representation of my distress, we experienced one of the weirdest rain storms we have ever seen in Florida. The skies cried at the demise of O Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of rain over the years but most of it gives you some sort of warning of its impending arrival. This one, as we were halfway across the bridge, came on as if we’d turn the shower on. There was no slow build-up or a few drops at first, but instead a complete downpour of torrential rain from nothing. We started at speed in search of cover. I wrestled the two umbrellas I had liberated from the villa out of Ryan and handed them out.

We sheltered eventually outside the perfume shop in France but by that time we were already soaking wet.

It lasted for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to mean that we now had to get a wriggle on and get to Italy asap, without stopping anywhere on the way.

Those familiar with a Floridian summer will not be surprised to see this next photo and how unrecognisable it is weather-wise from the previous ones.

I power-walked ahead a little, allowing others to restroom and checked us in. We were seated as soon as everyone caught me up.

We ordered various cocktails and with it being my birthday I even ordered myself a beer flight.

To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.

It pleased us.

But not a much as the pizza did.

Louise, Emily and I ordered individual pizzas, but Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza……and it was good.

Emily’s looked like this

Freddie looked excited…..

and we all tucked in, delighted with our choices. This is good pizza.

Service was a little slow, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were just enjoying the sit-down, the lovely food and drinks and making the most of my birthday. To pass the time, Freddie got his hands on the camera and took about three hundred photos that I would need to delete later. He managed a couple that survived the cull.

We ordered some desserts even though we were full beyond all bounds of sensible eating.

Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.

That was quickly abandoned as soon as his ice cream turned up.

I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.

I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take any photos as Louise enjoyed some large chocolate balls. Probably for the best. Tom had ice cream too. If you hadn’t noticed yet, he is quite keen on the odd ice cream.

The bill was large as expected, but worth it. We loved it again. We waddled out into the dusk of World Showcase, which as you know, is one of favourite times and places on the earth.

Inevitable restroomery meant that we loitered here for a while and I didn’t mind one bit. During the meal, I had managed to secure us a Test Track FastPass so we made the long walk there now. It was only as we got within earshot of the ride that Emily pointed out the lack of the distinctive ride noise. I consulted the app, and yep, it was down. Collective weeping at the wasted energy our legs had exerted transporting our very full bodies ensued. It was, of course, my fault and I was forced to walk back up to Mexico, naked, whilst Louise rang a bell shouting “Shame”.

To try and rescue the situation I took us into Mexico as the ride there is just as good as Test Track, right?

Well, Freddie thought it was great!

We then started our journey around the lagoon to our traditional ROE viewing spot on the bridge between France and the UK.

We got there with half an hour to spare and spent that time just being there and loving it.

My camera fails to capture this as do my words.

As I was stood looking out across the lagoon, with *that* music playing, a warm breeze blowing making the temperature just perfect, the lights twinkling aside the flaming torches, this, I recognised, was one of those moments.

All sorts of memories and thoughts came to me, brought to mind no doubt by pizza, beer, my birthday and the impending loss of Reflections of Earth. All the years I have stood here with the girls at various ages, the thought that my Mum & Dad wouldn’t see it again and alongside all of that, the anticipation of what’s to come, the possibilities of Freddie’s life in front of him and all of the trips, experiences and memories we would make together. My heart and belly were full, and that’s the way I like it.

I captured a few moments of it here…

Then, the torch was extinguished and the fireworks began. I captured that too.

There were tears at the end of course. Emily cries at everything, but even Rebecca shed a couple tonight, but I just had something in my eye and I think that pizza had caused the lump in my throat.

We slowly made our way out towards the Beach Club. After such a beautiful, magical evening, it was only fitting that we ended it by waiting half an hour for Louise to have a poo in the Beach Club.

I drove us home. It won’t be the last birthday I spend here, but if it were. it would have been a good way to finish.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

This is what it’s all about. The months of planning, the dark, cold mornings when you drag your unwilling ass out of bed to get to work to pay for these trips and the endless waiting for the countdown to reach zero. The first day dawns like a glorious new era, with all that real-life crap behind you along with the exhausting travel day. The endless possibilities of your trip stretching out before you as your T-shirt fits you the best it will for the foreseeable future.

Despite all of that, waking at 3am as I did was a big fat nope. I managed to get back to sleep until a much more respectable 6.30 before venturing downstairs to make the first of many checks on Dorian’s path. It was still a good few days away but that didn’t stop the TV from having 24-hour rolling coverage.

I showered and waited for others to appear. Freddie was soon ready to go.

and at a decent effort of 7.45am we were out of the door. Having failed at the whole supermarket thing last night, the cupboards were literally bare so we needed feeding and quick.

I had spotted a McDonalds on the way in last night and that was selected by me, without any consultation with anyone else, as it would be quick and not delay our arrival at Magic Kingdom any more than absolutely necessary.

We decided to eat inside and despite having to wipe our own table and order our own food on the big screen thing, it hit the spot. Look at how sunny it was and how it made the photos I took so great.

There were all sorts of sugar and salt-based goodies consumed in short order for the princely sum of $32. It would be the cheapest meal we would consume all holiday.

Not that I was keeping a track of time like some anal time-obsessed idiot, but we left McDonalds at 8.32am and arrived at the gates to Magic Kingdom at 8.50.

Not those gates….

These…

We paid the $25 for parking. Now, you know I am willing to gift Disney all of my money all of the time, but I have to say the parking fee is getting a little silly now. I know we are off-site scum who don’t hold an annual pass, and those are some ways to avoid it, but that is a high fee. Still, it could have been worse. We could have been one of those “characters” who sing to the cast member because they heard it can get them free parking. Just stop it!

We parked in Simba 117 and walked the inevitable walk from the very bottom of the row to the tram.

Getting six bodies and a stroller onto the tram isn’t easy, but by the end of this holiday, we could do it with our eyes closed.

Due to ongoing work, the tram doesn’t take you all the way in currently. It stops just outside of Tampa and you have to walk in the rest of the way.

At this point, some families may have a debate about how to get across the water to the park itself. Not on day one you don’t. Every second counts and anyone suggesting the ferry will be sleeping with the fishes.

There was a torturous wait as Rebecca took Freddie for a nappy change and I hid my burning desire to get into the park quite well I thought.

I mentioned in the previous day that I had abandoned the traditional bright white trainer for a more conservative black pair. To ensure that our party would continue to bring down aircraft with their footwear, both Emily and Louise had taken up the mantle.

We boarded the monorail, all craning our necks for that all-important first glimpse of the castle.

It is difficult for someone like me, with my weak grasp of writing, to express how this time and journey feels. You’ll know if you’ve done it I think. It goes without saying that I would sacrifice most of my major organs (not that one!) to be back in this moment.

Finally….finally….after a journey both real and metaphorical, we arrive at the turnstiles. We start to scan bands and fingers, mere moments from the first walk up Main Street. Wait, what? Emily is having problems. The cast member raises their hand so another one in a different uniform is summoned. Much scanning of bands, clicking of iPads and typing of stuff happens. I even get my photo taken for reasons I don’t understand. All that matters is that finally we are released into the Magic. Apparently, the issue was caused by Emily having her own My Disney Experience account, yet her ticket was linked to mine. That whole linking thing is more complex than Brexit.

Having realised that she had forgotten her magic band halfway to Manchester airport, Emily needed to get herself a new one. We did so in the very first shop we came across after doing a quick Facebook live of our first fateful steps in the park.

I have tried to embed that video here. It’s on Facebook so it may not work for some or all of you. To see it, I guess you’d need to Like the Mkingdon Facebook page, but frankly, if you haven’t done that already, it serves you right.

We linked the band up there and then in the shop and carried on up through the shops on our way to Pirates. We were very much soaking in every aspect of the park as if we’d never set foot in it before. This is a special time.

It was hot and sticky already, so Tom and Freddie took the welcome water of the camel.

Pirates had a fifteen-minute wait posted but it was a walk-on as you’d expect at this time. We don’t tend to use the Memory Maker as we should so I feel compelled to inflict the ride photo on you to feel that I am getting some value from it, despite getting it for “free”.

As you can see, Rebecca had already purchased her bride ears ready for next year. Tom said he’d wait! 🙂

Freddie loved the ride, especially the small drop and the bit where we all got splashed with a cannonball. I know it doesn’t particularly look like it on the photo but the joy of the first ride stayed with us as we left it, and waited for Rebecca to restroom. I collected the stroller and we all moved on to Big Thunder and our first FastPass.

As Freddie’s body clock was adjusting he was now in this state….

so Louise volunteered to sit out with him and she got us all some drinks for after our ride. After the wildest ride in the wilderness, we were headed to Haunted Mansion, but in a spectacular bit of unco-ordinated restrooming, Louise desperately needed to pay a visit. Rebecca, Tom and Emily set off for the Mansion whilst Lousie transferred Ryan, Freddie and other bits and bobs to me. Louise headed off and I set off to catch up with the others.

We were too early for our FastPass but the standby queue was short so I said that I would stay with Freddie whilst the others rode. I wrote up my notes so far, and waited for Louise to bear down and then catch up. After a while, I went to message her to find out where she was only to realise that she had left her phone in Ryan, so that wasn’t going to work. After several minutes of waiting, I got a bit bored, and that’s usually a recipe for trouble…for Louise.

I opened up her phone and did some mischief. Just for clarity, ICE1, is Louise. She is, and I advise you all to do the same, stored as my “In Case Of Emergency” (ICE) in my phone.

I took most joy from the fact that for the ten minutes that Emily, Tom and Rebecca were on the ride they really thought Louise had sent those messages. It’s the small things……

Louise, of course, found it absolutely hilarious as she openly displayed by rolling her eyes and looking at me with disdain and pity once she was reunited with her phone.

Once we were all back together, guess what we did? Yes, we stopped at the Tangled restrooms. Of course we did.

At one of these toilet stops I’m sure I will actually use a restroom at some point.

With Freddie still sleeping we decided to take the opportunity for a snack, which after a quick analysis of where we were and what was on offer, turned into an early lunch at Pinocchio’s Haus thing. We sat outside and I mobile ordered. It’s much easier to do that with a larger group, as every time we all stand at the till staring up at the menu trying to order in real-time, someone or something gets missed.

Once we’d collected the food we sat inside as the concrete was melting outside.

Tom – Nuggets

Rebecca & Freddie – Pasta Marinara

Me – Chicken Parm Burger

Emily – Flatbread

Louise – Bread Sticks as she wasn’t that hungry.

With slushes and sodas all round it was $94.

Naturally, a restroom was required after eating after which we headed out into the now incredible heat and the Carousel.

There was no wait and Freddie absolutely loved it, mastering the “wave at the grandparents” thing like a natural.

Philharmagic next.

Again, Freddie loved it despite not getting on too well with the 3D glasses.

It’s A Small World had a ten-minute standby and offered an escape from the heat so we did that next. This was right up there in the Freddie appreciation charts. He absolutely loved it. Again, I did a Facebook live here and I’ll try to put it here…..

Completing the set of Fantasyland stuff, our FastPass for Pete Pan was due. It’s as if all this had been planned.

As we left the ride, having now used all of our FastPasses, I booted up the app and made another for Barnstormer later that day, so Freddie could ride his first coaster.

As we had done much more restrooming than eating today I tried to remedy that now with some ice cream. We went to Friar’s Nook and got some very tasty stuff.

I won’t name any names, but some members of the group said they “didn’t want any ice cream” but then somehow ate a large proportion of said ice cream once they had tasted it.

That Key Lime stuff that I bought, but Emily seems to be eating, was absolutely delicious. I patted myself on the back for managing to capture such a flattering photo of Louise there.

It was parade time now, and we just managed to catch some of it after walking through the castle and onto one of the ramps leading down to Main Street. It was a great last-minute view and the five minutes of rain that we had at the time was not unpleasant and quite welcome.

It was Barnstormer time now. As we arrived we offered up Freddie for the measuring stick. We knew it would be close, and it took an excruciating few moments for the cast member to reach their verdict. He could get his finger between the top of Freddie’s head and the stick and therefore he couldn’t ride. We were mildly disappointed, but do not give up hope dear reader, that part of the story does not end there.

I cancelled the FastPass and booked Buzz instead. In the meantime, we had a sit-down, a restroom of course and Freddie and Tom played in the water for a bit.

I have always said that there is no “good age” to take kids to WDW. Take them as soon as you can afford to do so and as often as you can….always. Seeing the day that Freddie was having today and would continue to have throughout the holiday, I will wrestle anyone who disagrees.

I took the chance to take some pictures of the progress being made on Tron. It is HUGE and promises to be a significant addition to the park.

As another piece of planning genius unfolded before our very eyes, our Buzz FastPass was now ready so we made our way over there. I do think it unkind of Disney to take photos of folks when they are concentrating on beating their family at shooting targets.

Oh and due to an error on my part, where I scanned the wrong button, we seem to have a photo of a random couple on our account. Say hello!

It is both cool and a little tragic that I turn my cap around so that it does not impede my vision…..

and look at this classic……

Louise sat out in the sun for this one avoiding photographic shaming.

We were done at this point and we headed out to the car via tram and monorail. Tom and I dropped the ladies at the villa so they could begin the getting ready and we went to the Publix that we found closed last night. $220 later, we had a full trunk and soon a full fridge back at the villa.

After showers for all and some waiting for the males, we headed out for Outback at Formosa Gardens. Freddie was a little tired, as you can see….

but he did brilliantly as we ordered and ate.

He watched some Wallace and Gromit on his Dad’s phone and was even entrusted with the camera as a distraction for a while….

We had the customary Bloomin’ Onion….

Then….

Louise – Garlic Medallions of Steak

Rebecca – Sirlion (half-eaten)

Emily – A cheesy pasta thing, being the only Veggie option.

Freddie – Nuggets

I had a lovely steak and shrimp thing, but forgot to photograph it. I get better at this. It was our first night, forgive me.

Tom – An Quesadilla burger which escaped the camera also.

It was all very, very delicious. The bill with a 20% tip, was $178.

We barely managed it home awake. Bed at 10. That, my friends, is a very good effort at an excellent first day. We had a blast.

Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Ten 7th September 2018

I blame the huge amounts of food last night, and every other night this trip, for sleeping in until 9am. This is a rare occurrence and if you aren’t middle-aged with a body conditioned to wake at the time your daily grind demands, then make the most of the lie ins you can currently enjoy. The fact that you can go more than eight hours without a wee will be a miracle you won’t appreciate until later in life.

Whilst it was a valiant effort by all concerned, leaving the house at 10.01 was still later than I of course would have liked. Today was water park day and Typhoon Lagoon had opened one minute ago.  Writing interesting prose about lying in the sun is always a challenge, so let’s see how we go with tales of swimming for a bit, eating, lying down a bit and then swimming again! By the time I had expertly reversed off the drive, in my mind, every slither of shade had already been taken and we would be forced to lie in the blistering heat watching our skin bubble and pucker, so I was keen to get there asap.

These mental scenarios tortured me as I hammered it down the 192. I did a glorious job of getting us there in just twenty minutes and to be fair it looked quiet in the car park, but of course that didn’t mean that 3,500 people hadn’t arrived by bus and coach.

As we wandered in the subject of hiring a cabana was mentioned. With Freddie with us the prospect of not enough shade was not an option and so we enquired if any were still available at this advanced hour. We were dealt with by a cast member earning their ears, bless her, who knew less than I did, and her more experienced colleague stepped in and gave us a choice of pretty much any cabana on property. It seemed the park really was that quiet. There was one available right next to the lazy river but we declined that one as it was the only cabana that wasn’t “lightning proof” and chose the one next to it.

We were joined by our personal server for the day and stood making awkward conversation with her whilst Tom went to change Freddie. Turns out I’m as good at small talk as I am at getting us out of the villa on time.

It was a load of cash. I mean, silly amounts, but you know, you can’t take it with you and all that and it was lovely. Having learned how much they make from these things I know understand why they don’t provide brollies for free.

This was our view. That is actually cabana number 1, the one which is not lightning proof due to it being a big umbrella.

There was a little fridge with bottled water and endless towels and crucially copious amounts of shade.

The price also included refillable mugs for the day so we had a LOT of coke to drink today. Once we had settled in we did our first filling of the mugs and had our first of many battles of the day with wasps.

Everyone, minus Louise who was already prostrate in the direct sunshine, went into the lazy river. We all did one loop and retired back to the cabana. Time to refill the mugs again. They were a bit temperamental to be honest. “Place cup on try” was a message I had already had enough of hearing especially as I had put the bloody cup on the tray.

I watched Freddie for a bit whilst all the youngsters went off swimming and sliding and took the responsibility of ordering us some lunch. This was done by texting our young helper for the day, who I think was called Rebecca. I spent seconds looking at the menu before spectacularly over ordering lots of pizza, a hot dog for Tom and a chicken sandwich for Rebecca.

It arrived just as everyone returned from the water and we dug in. It was all very tasty indeed. One interesting point was that our server wouldn’t/couldn’t accept a tip from us which I thought was strange.

Our food interested more wasps and some other wildlife….

SQUIRREL!

For some reason I thought now was a good time to take a photo of my refillable mug.

We all dried off and rested for a bit now.

Once we had waited the obligatory amount of time after eating that your Mum always told you to so that we wouldn’t die, we headed back into the wave pool to be aggressively tossed around for a bit. That was an interesting and unexpected perk of the cabana I have to say.

As is always the case at Typhoon Lagoon at this time of year a storm approached and the water was cleared.

There were a couple of light showers which saw pretty much everyone else leave the park, but as we were covered by our cabana we were able to sit it out, have a drink, fight some wasps and just chill out a bit.

Everything was opened up again at 4pm and we enjoyed whatever bit of water we liked all to ourselves. Maybe this cabana had been worth it after all?

We spent the last hour in the shallow bit of water just outside the main wave pool with Freddie. It was absolutely lovely. To be sat with the girls, all playing with Freddie in the warm water was just a lovely moment.

The park closed at 5pm, which I have to say I think is a little early saying it opens at 10am. We could easily have stayed another hour or two. We reluctantly made that damp, sandy walk back to the car and did the usual sitting on towels in the car whilst we drove home.

We did a fairly impressive set of showers and changes to quickly head out for dinner tonight at the Cheesecake Factory. The closest one was at the Mall at Millennia and my hunger drove us there in no time at all.

I checked us in and was upset to hear that it would be a thirty minute wait. We chose to wait outside as it was very busy and noisy indoors.

After what felt like several days we were shown to our table and we were hungry!

We had some appetisers despite the fact that we would be eating dessert here no matter how full we might feel. He who dares wins…..

Mikey had Calamari but I suspect there’s a cream for that in Walgreens.

I shared Guac & Chips with Rebecca. I’m not trying to be hip and groovy, that’s what the menu said…..

Emily and Louise had spinach and artichoke dip

Tom had pot stickers after loving them at Yak & Yati the other day.

I followed that with a fried chicken sandwich as I didn’t want to go crazy with the calories!

Tom a Bacon Bacon Burger. Yes, so bacony they named it twice….

Rebecca, spicy sausage pasta

Emily a Chicken Caesar salad

Louise had a Filet Mignon with Mash.

Mikey had Lasagne

I can confirm that this was all as delicious as it looked. Fantastic food.

What follows now are several photos of cheesecake. I didn’t note who had what. I was just too excited to cram mine down my neck so just drink them in and appreciate them.

Emily took hers to go as she was one spoonful away from a hospital visit. Holy hell those desserts were just wonderful. I was too full to eat it, but eat it I did and I’m not even sorry.

It was literally painful to walk back to the car and how I managed to control the thing without killing us all I don’t know. We abandoned the van pretty much on the drive, or close enough not to matter and we all crawled our way into our beds.

Tomorrow’s plan had called for an early start but by consensus we had all decided that was just not going to happen and a lie in was proposed, seconded and agreed by all.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Nine 6th September 2018

I mentioned right back at the start of this report that I made some errors in the planning. I am sure you cannot believe this and as you read each glorious pleasure riddled day, you must all surely wish that you could pay me a lot of money to plan your trips. I would do that, but to be honest, I love my current job too much to do that, no matter what financial rewards you may offer me.

Image result for spacey gif

Anyway, I also said that I was the most tired I had ever been on one of these trips and the pace I set may have been a little too aggressive. I am not too proud to admit that…again. All that preamble is just an excuse for yet another shoddy late start to the day this morning.

After a twelve-hour day yesterday, a slower start had been planned for by my majestic forethought and considerate nature, but getting out of the villa at 11.15 was taking liberties.

We were bound for the Studios again, and we arrived into the current shambola of a car park and entrance around 11.50, barely making our arrival in the “am”. Pitiful.

We all split up looking for the shortest security lines as usual. Mikey picked wrong this time and we waited the longest for him to have his sack examined. Naturally, arriving at this time, we were all hungry and lunch was needed, so we wandered down Sunset Boulevard and the average burger counter service place pulled us in like some fat soaked tractor beam.

We watched as much of this as we could without actual standing still.

I think I mobile ordered and had more success than we did at the Magic Kingdom a few days ago. We all had burgers or nuggets I think. It was $95 and pretty average really.

We were visited by a cute squirrel who was a bigger fan of our food than we were, so we shared some.

I noted that a Beauty & The Beast show was due to start at 1pm so we made the long journey across the street and entered. We were fairly close to the start time, so there was not a huge amount of choice for a party of our size so we split up over a couple of benches. The one I chose had a family spread out across it for no reason. As we signalled our intent to enter their area, they did not respond. I am not unfamiliar with this concept.

I edged a little closer and they did get eventually get the message this big sweaty bloke standing at the side of them meant that they would need to SHIFT DOWN THE FECKING BENCH!

They had several young kids with them and they proved to be a gigantic pain in the arse throughout. They must have got up and left their seats at least six times between them during the short show. I have never tutted as loudly in my life. Sit down, shut up, pay attention and don’t move until it finishes unless one of your party is on fire.

There were brief moments when we could see the stage.

The show was superb of course and Mikey stated it was his favourite so far. After consulting the app, we decided to do Ariel again. She loves a bit of it.

We wandered all the way there in the searing heat and joined the short queue.

Ariel was much better this time and we all enjoyed her very much.

As we left, rain had started so we made a quick dash to the Star Wars Launch Bay thing which was quickly becoming our go to destination for rainy times.

Freddie was intrigued by the these chaps who interacted with him and us all for quite some time.

We had a wander around the various exhibits avoiding the rain and in Mikey’s case having a wee. He was allowed as there was little else to be doing.

This lady was wandering around again, talking to cast members and characters. We saw her in the First March thing the other day. I think she lives here now.

Whilst wandering, I had again multi-tasked superbly to consult the app and had seen that Tower of Terror has a measly ten minute wait, so that was our direction of travel now.

We had a FastPass for Rock n Rollercoaster so we snuck that in now before the Tower. We baby swapped on both but Louise sat out with Freddie for TOT. As we all returned from riding Freddie was just waking up and he seemed very hot. I know that seems an obvious thing to say when you are on Florida in the summer, but he was exceptionally so. We tried drinks and wiping him down etc but it wasn’t helping. To be sure he was OK we walked to the medical centre near the entrance just to get him checked. This is a great service, thank you Disney. They gave him some Calpol type stuff and an iced towel to bring his temperature down.

We needed to get some cash so we slowly wandered to the ATM whilst Rebecca and Tom took Freddie into the Brown Derby to change him and keep him cool. When they returned, Freddie was no better at all and we decided it would be best to leave and get him back to the villa.

We were quickly back in the car after a tram ride and home in about twenty minutes. Freddie chilled out, literally and Rebecca and Tom decided they would stay at the villa with him tonight rather than come out to dinner. A wise decision to make sure he was better for tomorrow.

The rest of us showered and got ready, whilst the largest takeaway order of McDonalds in history was made by Tom. The delivery guy needed a small truck. We headed for Bahama Breeze with me once again forgetting the camera. Bear with me now whilst I transfer the photos from that evening from my phone….

I’m back.

Cocktails were ordered.

I had a diet coke.

Appetisers were a must here.

That dipping sauce you can see with those onion rings was more addictive than crack. We had a spinach dip in addition to those onion rings and both were bloody lovely.

Me and Mikey had Buttermilk Fried Chicken with free heart bypass.

It was superb. Again, that sauce you can see is one of the wonders of the world.

Louise and Emily, as they always do here, had Jerk Chicken Pasta

I know that looks like a lot of pasta, but who doesn’t always make ten times more pasta than they actually need?

This is what full looks like.

We took three slices of Key Lime Pie home for those we left behind and the bill was $210 including a 20% tip for great service.

It was an early night!

Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Today goes to prove that no matter how many times you’ve been to Florida, incompetence and planning failure can still happen. Today is the tale of two fails. Read on to see if they affected my birthday adversely or not…..

At the end of this whole thing I will share my thoughts on more general stuff that I could have done better, but for now, it’s only day three and we need to crack on.

Another birthday in Florida dawned and I was awake at 5am. An improvement but still unacceptable. As I got downstairs Rebecca and Tom were up, due to Freddie. One element of the planning I had got right was to denote this morning as a time for resting. The long travel day and an adrenaline filled first day in Magic Kingdom can take it out of you. Whatever *it* was, I was empty.

I opened cards and presents from both those with me and those left at home over a coffee and some brekkie.

As folks woke up, we all assembled around and at times in the pool.

Mikey was the last to rise after what was obviously a much-needed lie in.

After playing, I retired to a lounger with a James Patterson book from the shelves of the bookcase up in the nook of the villa. I aspire to have a house with a nook. Crannies, I have loads of though.

I do enjoy this poolside time and tradition dictates that whilst relaxing and reading I devour a bag of chips (crisps) large enough to feed a family of four for a week. Today it was Cheese Puffs. I had only eaten a Bagel for breakfast so I was allowed. The resting continued until around 12.30. I took my orange tipped fingers and crumb covered chest up into the shower and everyone was good to go by 2pm.

I was ready first and apparently I may have nodded off on the couch whilst waiting for everyone to put some bloody clothes on.

Having had all that time this morning to rest and get ourselves organised, perhaps someone could explain how I then managed to forget my camera! Fail number one.

We had an ADR at Beaches & Cream which would also allow us to park at the Beach Club. Unusually the guard at the gate scanned my magic band to check my ADR. Surely people don’t lie about having ADRs just to park there??? 😉

We found a spot to leave the car and walked into the Beach Club taking all the usual photos of one of my favourite places in the world (on my phone).

That ADR for Beaches & Cream, which wasn’t for another forty minutes or so, had only been possible for four of the seven of us, so the idea now was to ask if they could take three of us as a walk up. I let the others stroll a bit whilst I wandered to the podium to work my magic. It only took me a few minutes with the lovely lady to get satisfaction…..I don’t think I need to add anything here.

I now walked briskly at full man pace to catch up with everyone as they could fit us all in pretty much right away. I was halfway to the Dolphin (or is it the Swan?) when I got a message from Rebecca saying they were sat outside Beaches & Cream. Super. Getting more of a sweat on, I power walked back to meet them. With all the faff, we’d missed that immediate window and had to wait a bit to get two tables together.

We were seated by the jukebox, which for some reason seemed to be stuck on “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” by Buddy Holly. By the end of the meal, it did matter, a lot, and if any of us ever hear that song again, the story will end with “and then he turned the gun upon himself”.

We ordered –

Me – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Rebecca – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Tom – Chicken Burger and a Snickers Sundae

Emily – No main meal, just a No Way Jose.

Mikey – Cheese Bacon Fries and Fudge Mud Slide

Louise – Burger and a milkshake and she shared my dessert.

In the rush to get it down before she took too much….

The bill was $150. Frankly, I would have paid double to turn the jukebox off.

We wandered, full bellied, towards International Gateway. I was very conscious that entering Epcot this way for the first time for our newbies would be weird, but there was little to be done about that. We were watching the fireworks tonight, as is the law on my birthday and as such being able to wander out to the Beach Club to get back to the car is just better than getting out of the front entrance with the muggles.

Once scanned and searched we walked through the UK, stopping to listen to a little bit of the British Invasion (assuming they are still called that) and then we moved on to Canada via a temporary Ireland. There was no physical border here…think on politicians….

We waited fifteen minutes for O Canada, but frankly I had been waiting eighteen months so that mattered not.

I am declaring it now. O Canada is THE greatest song ever written. Don’t @ me, as I believe the kids say. I loved the film, I loved Martin Short and my application for Canadian citizenship is submitted.

It was coming up to our FastPass time for Nemo and Friends so we navigated a very busy World Showcase (Food and Wine Festival be damned) down towards the seas. This was another Freddie favourite. We wandered around the Living Seas a bit afterwards…..

and on the way out we bought Freddie a stingray from the gift shop. Not the easiest pet to care for but it’ll be a good learning curve.

He was christened Steve, until someone pointed out that this may be a little distasteful bearing in mind how Steve Irwin met his end, so he was renamed Simon, although I couldn’t quite remember that and still called it Steve for the rest of the trip.

Time for another FastPass now. Luckily it was for Frozen Ever After, probably the furthest point from our current spot in the park so we only had to walk all the way there, through jostling throngs of folks carrying small food portions, who were a bit drunk on that Tortoise Vodka from the Vombekistan booth or whatever it was they were drinking.

It was a testing walk, with my tut muscle flexed on a regular basis, but we arrived a few minutes before our window, wandered the shop for a few minutes before joining the FastPass line, still a little early. There was a fifty-five minute standby queue. Just no.

After enjoying the ride we wandered up to China and took a spot in the gardens to watch an imminent acrobat show.

We had a decent view until a couple just came and stood right in front of us, oblivious to the very obvious fact that they were blocking our view and were dicks. My tut reflex burnt out with use but they did move after a few minutes of my violent stares. We then wandered the shop for a bit.

Our time was now approaching for our evening ADR at La Hacienda at Mexico. This had been a late, impulsive addition to my birthday plans and I am blaming that for what looked like the second planning fail of the day. Rebecca and Mikey were sent to the podium to sweet talk the cast member into bagging us a window seat for Reflections of Earth, with it being my special birthday meal.

They returned to us with bad news. I had made the booking for 7.45, expecting that we’d be able to stick at the table for the fireworks starting at 9pm. For reasons that nobody could explain, tonight ROE wasn’t due to start until 10pm!

Down trodden and defeated we went ahead with our meal, and were led, ironically, to a window seat. That’s right, rub it in.

Our mood was immediately improved by our server, Francisco, who was excellent and a bundle of energy and joy. Cocktails were ordered and he made the generous offer of swapping out anyone’s drink if they didn’t like their selection.

Mikey ordered Francisco’s recommended cocktail….the Avocado one…and loved it.

Emily took him up on the offer of a swap as her first choice tasted like Cillit Bang.

For starters we had….

Mikey – Fundido. That sounds like a sex toy, but it was more satisfying as it was a whole pot of melted cheese.

Rest of us – Guac and chips

For entree…

Me – Short Rib

Louise – Chicken & Veg thing

Emily & Rebecca – Chicken Enchilada

Mikey – Salmon

Tom – Steak Enchiladas

They were all tremendous and this meal was right up there with my favourites of this trip. I don’t know what it is that makes something stand out as a “special memory” on one of these trips but I feel that this meal will make that cut. I loved it.

It was about now that we realised it was about 9.20 and we had a chance to make it to the fireworks. Francisco encouraged us to stay and he very nicely took his time getting our desserts.

Tom and Louise – Custard Flan thing

Me – Chocolate Mousse

A birthday surprise cake was arranged for me and Happy Birthday Mexican style was performed.

To get us all the way to ROE we ordered coffees too.

Appreciating that we had eaten at Beaches & Cream in the late afternoon and nobody was that hungry, this whole meal was a very fine effort indeed. We were able to watch the fireworks from our table so that planning fail was averted. Emily cried as is the law during all WDW fireworks shows.

The bill was a large one. $427 including a very good tip for Francisco. We waddled slowly around the World Showcase all the way back to International Gateway.

Here is Steve/Simon resting on the way back to the car…

We were home and in bed for 11.20.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

I’m tired, jet lagged, and dreading work tomorrow. What better frame of mind could I be in to start writing this thing? Well, I could also be sad that I’m back in the UK, and somehow as the wheels hit the tarmac at Manchester I could have instantly developed a life threatening cold.

Sitting here now, a little weary and down beat for various reasons, looking back at my notes from the start of the trip just gone, I have to say I am not looking forward to recounting the untold joy, optimism and excitement of the start of a WDW trip. It is a necessary evil so it is time to stop moaning and get on with it.

The evening before our trip began, I noted that things were very busy and stressful. We had a million things to do, parents to see, takeaways to order and eat as well as last minute packing and seemingly never ending chores to complete before we were allowed to leave the country. As we wouldn’t all be at our house in the morning, I had to take this chance to take some traditional photos. Rebecca wasn’t very impressed as she had her rollers in and her dressing gown on, but a tradition is a tradition and she had to suck it up.

Then, a new tradition, with Freddie’s first by the door photo.

and Tom’s…

Somehow, we got through everything we needed to do, and I think I got to bed around midnight, honestly looking forward to the 4am alarm I had set going off.

Somehow I was awake before it went off, probably due to others already being up. Upon picking my phone up to turn the impending alarm off, I saw that I had a text. It was from Virgin. They regretted that there was to be an hours delay to our flight. Not as much as I regretted not knowing that before I went to sleep. It could have meant an extra hour in bed had I had chance to delay the taxi pick up. Ah well, showers were had, cases crammed full, weighed then opened again and things were re-arranged into other cases, and then weighed again until we were fairly confident that all of them might be under 24kg.

The taxi arrived a few minutes early, a rushed goodbye was said to the dogs and finally after all this waiting, we were off. The loading of the taxi was a rush and a bit of a panic, and I spent the journey to Rebecca and Tom’s wondering what I’d forgotten. It turns out that was my hoodie, which sat in my wardrobe. Balls.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were ready and waiting to go as we pulled up, and we added their luggage to the groaning pile already in the back of the van. It was a tight squeeze and on the assumption that our mini van I’d hired would be smaller than the bus we were currently in I was quite concerned for our ability to get all the luggage from Orlando airport to the villa.

Being so bloody early the journey to the airport was a quiet one. There was some chatter in the back, but I was sat next to the driver and thankfully he was wasn’t a talker so I could sit in the uncomfortable silence in peace. We arrived at 6.10 and took the lift up to departures to endure a horrific five minute queue to drop our luggage off.

 

Two of our cases were just over the 24kg limit despite our best efforts but the kind lady in the ill fitting Virgin uniform “waived” the charge that should have been levied against us. The car seat had to be taken to a special drop off point at the other end of departures and once we’d done that we were free to head through security, up another level which needed another lift. Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and the pram (it will be a stroller as soon as we land state side!) were diverted through the fast track lane and I made a mental note to ensure that Emily would be in a pram the next time we come. The rest of us endured the normal route and we all got through within a few minutes. Louise was searched as usual.

We weaved our way, Ikea style through the absurd collection of poncy displays and arty photos that are meant to flog perfumes and headed for food. Frankie and Bennys seated us immediately and then ignored us for about ten minutes.

Freddie had his food at the ready so he cracked on anyway.

The rest of us waited for our order to be taken.

Me and Tom – Eggs Benedict, which was to be the smallest plate of food we would see for the next two weeks.

Emily – Nutella and Banana Thing

Louise & Mikey – A Big One

Rebecca – A fry up of some sort

Some toast was ordered for Freddie so that he didn’t feel left out.

With coffees and juices for most, (two drinks each? well we are on holiday!) the bill was £90.

We strolled duty free for far too long, and lost Louise and Mikey who snuck off to the loo without telling anyone. Emily got some sunglasses, and crucially, Louise bought very little. We found some seats and rested for a while before finding a bar in which I could have a £27 diet coke. Technically, there were seven drinks purchased, but you know what I mean.

I took the chance to release the chocolate hostage on UK soil, so that wouldn’t be needed later in the confines of the plane toilet. With that task complete, gate 210 was located and we sat and watched folks queue up for ages to board and take the seat they had reserved.

It was about fifteen minutes until we boarded and made our way up to the bubble. As we were settling in a stewardess (is that what they are called nowadays?) told us that there were a number of empty seats on the flight so if we wanted to use some of them after take off it would give us more room for Freddie.

We took off at 11.30 which Louise enjoyed as much as she always does. We were up to altitude quickly and the seat belt signs were off. Within three seconds some bloke from a few rows away literally threw himself into the spare row in front of us, claiming them as his own. Mikey had a word with the cabin crew and he was directed to another empty seat near his own and Mikey and Emily took up that row meaning we were now three rows of two, and we all had more room which was excellent.

The bubble seats have a really handy shelf/storage bin down the side which is great for putting stuff on and in, but also, if you have an infant with no seat of their own it is useful for them to sit and play on too.

Despite my earlier Eggs Benedict I was starving. They were a bit small and pretty average to be honest, and I shouldn’t throw stones in that particular glass house, but I needed food. With a predicted flight time of eight and half hours drinks were brought round (free, which was nice), and I hoovered up the six pretzels that came with my diet coke in seconds.

Thankfully, food was not far behind and I had a sausage in my mouth quicker than a guest at a Michael Barrymore pool party (I like to keep things topical). It all tasted very good.

We now settled in for the duration with some trying to sleep…

Others, played with Vera…whoever she is….

and most crucially some of us were just impeccably behaved. Freddie was a star for the entire flight, without a hint of trouble, noise or complaint….

There was a lot of looking at this…

and this…

I watched the Darkest Hour with a forty minute nap in the middle of it. After playing Solitaire for a bit I finished the flight by watching Downsizing whilst eating our snack…

I was hungry again so it mattered not what it tasted like. It was devoured. The film was a bit weird, felt about half an hour too long and lost its way a bit.

We started to descend at 7.20 UK time. As they tend to, my ears gave me a fair bit of pain on the way down but I don’t mention it much….just every time I go on holiday.

We were one of the first off the plane and the relief and joy as the first bit of Orlando heat seeped through to us on the walkway from the plane was palpable. I have to say that Orlando is a mess for arrivals. It is warren of corridors and double bag drops and/or dragging cases up and down escalators. It could be a million times easier. Immigration was a ten minute wait and another similar wait for our luggage. As is traditional, Louise is “desperate for the loo” at this point but she was told in no uncertain terms that she could wait until I was getting the car. Words were exchanged, most of them not repeatable here.

Another ten minute wait saw us heading for the garage to choose our carriage for the next two weeks. The criteria was simple. Whichever had the most luggage space would be chosen regardless of all else. After a few minutes of opening various trunks (we are in the US now) we settled on what turned out to be a Toyota Sienna. It took all the luggage fairly easily which was a huge relief.

I was determined to take a few minutes now to get myself familiar with the knobs and buttons at my disposal, again like a Barrymore pool party….but started the thing up to get the air con going. It was a keyless ignition thingy but I did note that there was no sign of the key which could be crucial when it came time to lock the thing later. A search of nooks and crannies proved fruitless and so I piled out of the car, a little frustrated, looking for assistance. The chap I found spoke as much English as I did Spanish, but I think I got my point over as he said, whilst helping us look for the key “No key, car no vroom”. I understood that he meant the key must be somewhere in the car or it wouldn’t start. After a few more minutes Tom found the key under the driver’s seat and we were finally on our way, with me a little sweaty and agitated.

I had unleashed our trusty old sat nav and stuck that to the windscreen but of course in the underground garage it was picking nothing up. The fact it had been in its box for 18 months in a cupboard in the UK also won’t have helped. It was at this point that I made a mental note that in future it would be a good idea to write down, on something close to hand, the actual address of the villa so that I could put it into the thing. As it was, as we emerged from underground and it started working, I browsed recently found destinations whilst trying not to hit anything and chose one that was pretty close to where we were heading. I think it was Old Town, and I figured that if I got us there I’d be able to find Emerald Island Resort.

The first few minutes behind the wheel felt as alien as ever, but I soon settled into it and began to enjoy our travels. It took about half an hour to get to the 192. I had retained all the loose coin from our last trip, rather than leave it behind as I often have and this proved a stroke of genius as they were very handy for the couple of tolls we encountered on the way.

As we reached the Formosa Gardens turn off the 192, there were roadworks and an annoying queue at the lights which made the last five minutes of our marathon journey today a little frustrating. Upon arriving at Emerald Island, I got us past the guard on the gate with some photo ID and the paperwork sent from the villa owner. That same paperwork directed us, without delay or diversion to our new home.

The cases were dragged in and exploring was done. There was a momentary concern that I couldn’t find the second master ensuite bedroom but after turning a corridor upstairs it was located and all was well. Yes the villa was that large that a bedroom could be hidden.

As unpacking happened, I took Tom and Mikey to the supermarket for the procurement of essentials. On the way out I stopped at the clubhouse to get a pass for the gate so we wouldn’t need to speak to the guard every time and with that done we were on our way to spending over $300 on food and things. We returned, unpacked and Louise had a shower. By this point, Freddie was just too tired to function and it became clear that he wouldn’t be fit to come out to eat. So Rebecca, Tom and he stayed at the villa whilst the rest of us ventured out to the Outback.

There was a ten minute wait for a table but were soon knee deep in cheesy bacon fries and a bloomin’ onion.

We had –

Me – Aussie Cobb Salad

Louise – My notes say a cheesy chicken thing

Mikey & Emily – Chicken Caesar Salad

We ordered some stuff to go for Rebecca and Tom, namely some more cheesy bacon fries, a philly steak sandwich and another Caesar Salad which took the whole bill to $140 including a good tip for our lovely server who reminded us of Karen from Will & Grace.

We were back at the villa by 9.30 to find everyone asleep so the food went into the fridge and everyone else hit the hay within seconds.

Till the next time…..

Every Little Thing About The Magic

As much as everyone here in the world of Mkingdon will be delighted to finally be on this bloody holiday, that surely is nothing compared to the sheer joy for both of my readers who are being subjected to this tortuous and constant over sharing of every tiny detail.

Not long now.

Anyway, onwards with that over sharing, yes?

Not being one to leave things until the last-minute (that can’t be a surprise to you?) my mind has been working overtime, making both mental and physical lists of stuff I’ll need to get organised. This ranges from dog walkers, dog sitters, instructions for both, currency, the tragedy of the exchange rate, and this week most crucially, the contents of Ryan for the flight. Yes we have two weeks to go and I agree that I shouldn’t have left it so late!

The filling of Ryan involved the ransacking of several bedroom cupboards, wondering in which “really obvious” place I had put all that stuff I now needed after our last trip. This included, but was not limited to, my bumbag, a veteran of dozens of trips. I shudder to think how much cash has passed through its zips and compartments over the years.

The camera of course and this year I have a lovely new one, a Canon G7X, courtesy of Emily last Christmas, which is a far better a piece of kit than I’ll ever be a photographer and clearly, being a planning genius with foresight a plenty, a load of quarters that had been stuffed into my bumbag last year. This is very wise, as we typically get stuck at a toll booth after leaving the airport waving $50 bills at an automated teller that only takes coins. Somehow, we also returned last year with $1 in actual note form which I had saved. Returning with $1 in cash is another sign that my obsessive planning skills are a cause for concern. Anyway, that dollar will help our budget this year no end. I bought it at a crazy rate, something like 1.40 so it will represent great value for money indeed.

A new addition this year and again, another excellently thoughtful gift, this time from Rebecca and Tom was this, my official trip report notes book.

Usually I grab something from WH Smiths at the airport, but this, official Mkingdon merchandise is surely a line of business I should pursue to fund my early retirement. Let me have your orders as and when….

The FastPass fun continued last week and was broadly a success.  I left you at the end of last week’s post on the 3rd of September having just secured our Hollywood Studios FastPass+ bookings. Of course we didn’t get Slinky Dog, and as you’ll see when we get to the Animal Kingdom day shortly we also didn’t get Flight of Passage as we are just never that lucky, but no matter. Well, it does matter and I’m incredibly bitter but that won’t change things will it?

Image result for bitter gif

So the 4th of September, according to the plan, was a rest day. We have a long track record of planning rest days which somehow then turn into very busy days, and this was another. The plan said we were to go out for a large breakfast . These are not possible on theme park days as that is vital “doing stuff” time, so a rest day affords us the chance to eat ourselves to a near death experience. Keke’s is the plan, with some resting in a food coma for the rest of the day, desperately trying to get hungry again for our dinner at Cowfish around 5pm. Then we are to go into Magic Kingdom to watch Happily Ever After as for reasons, it will be the only chance we get to this trip.

I couldn’t resist seeing if there were any good FastPasses around just before the fireworks and got a bit carried away, mainly as I managed to snag a Mine Train FastPass. Add to that a Winnie The Pooh and a Buzz Lightyear Spin and all of a sudden we needed to be in Magic Kingdom by 5.40 and Cowfish was brought forward to an earlier time to accommodate that. We will have a job on our hands to feel hungry but, we must make sacrifices for the plan.

Onto the 5th, and Animal Kingdom. Despite being on the app seconds after 12, of course Flights of Passage was unavailable. We happened to be in the car at the time and so it was down to Emily and an intermittent signal to secure the necessary. She played a blinder, her finely honed phone thumbs flying across the app to get us, Everest, Na’vi River Journey and the Safari all by lunch. By the way, we hope to have that lunch at the Satu’li Canteen place before again fighting to get hungry for our traditional Yak & Yeti reservation at 6.15. Technically we have two reservations at 6.15 and 6.30 as I was unable to get one for seven, but could somehow get one for four and one for three fifteen minutes apart.

We’ll see after that if we want to stick around for Rivers of Light or not.

We’re now at the stage of the trip where we will be visiting parks for the second day. This is a luxury we have not been availed of for a while as, and I may have mentioned this before, on our last trip, we spent most of the holiday on a beach and only had four days at Disney. So this pleases me.

However, with a second day at Hollywood Studios planned for the 6th of September, and that park being in a state of flux I was/am slightly fearful that we wouldn’t be able to fill it. Having bagged three headliners on our first day, we now had some flexibility. It goes without saying that we didn’t get Slinky dog again. Other, less deserving folks got that again.

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Anyway, we went with Star Tours, Rock n Rollercoaster again (you can never ride it too much) and Alien Swirling Saucers. We plan to nip out to Bahama Breeze for tea (dinner) before returning to watch the Star Wars fireworks thing for the first time ever. We were irked on our last visit to find that it started at the exact moment Fantasmic finished, making it impossible to do both.

The 7th of September is a day off from the FastPass malarkey, as we are at Typhoon Lagoon with The Cheesecake Factory for tea. So on to the 8th….

A return to Epcot for what will be a third time, but crucially for our first full day here. We kick off with the third of the big three, Test Track, followed by the Freddie friendly Turtle Talk and Journey Into Imagination. Having done a couple of late afternoon/evenings in this park already by this stage of the trip we plan to leave for dinner at Teak, one of our absolute favourites.

The 9th is our character breakfast at O’hana, some resting and then we are off to Magic Kingdom for our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I have secured a couple of tactical FastPasses from 4pm before the park closes to non party guests. We can do Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight before 6pm when we will be consumed with candy collection, special parades, fireworks and hopefully rides with no wait times.

The 10th is another day with no FastPass requirements as we are resting. We have brunch at Hash House a Go Go, a trip to A&E to address our gluttony, some wandering around Disney Springs and dinner at the Olive Garden at Lake Buena Vista. The evening is pencilled in for a Boardwalk visit.

So that leaves us with our last full day. Even the thought of booking FastPasses for our last full day makes me sad and emotional. We are of course in the Magic Kingdom, but with a twist. There is another Not So Scary party that evening so the park will close at 6pm. So instead of our usual last night watching of fireworks and some tears, we shall adjourn to Epcot, and watch some fireworks and shed some tears instead. The FastPasses for our day were secured a few moments before posting this and they are….

Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

Splash Mountain

Thunder Mountain

We finish strong with a couple of headliner favourites, before heading over to Epcot for final fireworks, tears and the start of the planning of how quickly we can get back.

Finally this week, I have a confession to make. Usually I am a pioneer of tastes and trends. I shape the zeitgeist, I set the pace and forge my own path. However, last night, I was led by the nose to a decision. In this case I am grateful to be that social media sheep. We were watching a recent Tracker video where they visited La Hacienda. We must have walked past this place hundreds of times over the years and never given it a thought, so caught up in a wave of pre-trip excitement, I accepted the challenge of trying to fit just one more meal into our bulging dining plans.

I think I did OK. A quick search found me a 7.45 reservation on my birthday when we of course are due to be in World Showcase anyway. The fact that we are at Beaches & Cream at 3.40 on the same day is merely a challenge that we need to rise to.

Whilst there can be no guarantee that we will be within viewing distance of the fireworks, the fact that I will be laying it on thick to the greeter about it being my birthday and three of our parties first visit, I am hopeful we will be eating somewhere close enough to a window to see some of Reflections of Earth.

We should be able to stretch the meal out for just over an hour, to get to the 9pm start time even if it means some of us having seven courses to do so. I suspect that restaurant has had a lovely uptick in bookings due to that video, but I don’t mind moving with the herd if I can eat lovely food in front of some fireworks.

Enough now.

Till the next time…..

Planes, Babies and Automobiles

I have a recurring dream, or more accurately, nightmare. It probably originates from the huge sense of responsibility I feel when planning a WDW trip for everyone I allow to join me.

It goes something like this.

It is the end of a Florida holiday and somehow, for reasons that never become clear, we’ve done nothing. None of my plans have come to fruition, and we are about to head for the airport to go home. The feeling of having had a holiday slip through my fingers turns my stomach and brings me out in cold sweats.

It is a subliminal reminder to make the most of every second of these holidays of course and is probably some important message about life in general that I am missing the point of. I only mention it as I had a week off last week and I sit here on the cusp of returning to work feeling exactly like that. It vanished in a puff of smoke before I knew it was happening. I didn’t have any plans for my week off and that was intentional. Well, my plans were to do as little as possible to be honest, and bearing that in mind it was a success and yet I still feel that I’m only now ready for the time off and I need another week to do it properly.

I did manage to finish the West Wing and felt actual grief that it was over. I think I was one of the last few people on the planet not to have watched it, so if you are one of the others then do give it a go.  If you don’t fall in love with Martin Sheen then you should see a doctor.

We’re in June now somehow and this holiday hurtles towards us at great speed. I took the opportunity last week to get one of the final pieces of the jigsaw sorted by booking the hire car. As ever, I used US Rent a Car, mainly as you can secure it with a small deposit and pay fully a few weeks before. With the size of our party I have of course booked a mini van thing. When we get sent to the row of cars to choose from we’ll be looking for the one with most room of course as we have six adults and a car seat to cram in plus all our luggage. Those journeys to the airport and back are always hot and sweaty fun with suitcases on knees.

I think the plan is to take a car seat with us rather than rent one from the car hire folks. I’d appreciate any advice from those having done it but this seems to make sense for a few reasons…

  1. We will need it in the taxi to the airport at this end and on the journey home
  2. It costs an arm and leg per day to hire one
  3. You can’t be sure of the quality of whatever you rent

My thinking is that we will have Freddie in his normal car seat in the taxi to Manchester airport and then once at the airport we will label it up and send it through with the luggage. Am I missing something here which makes that a bad plan?

Maybe this is the answer? 🙂

Stroller wise I think we’re still in two minds. One option is to not take one and at the airport poor Tom will transport Freddie around in a harness, risking permanent damage to his back as Freddie is going to be a bundle by that time. We would then either use the one provided in the villa or buy a suitable one from a supermarket for day-to-day use. The other option would be to take a lightweight one with us and keep it until we get to boarding at the gate. I can see the benefits of that as Freddie can have a kip before we get on the plane if he needs it and we’d have it from baggage reclaim at Orlando too.  Hmm, not sure on that one. What is your advice dear reader?

Steer us in the right direction please if you have handled these logistical challenges.

Having had two gigs this weekend, resulting in two very late nights I am going to sign off now and rest my weary bones. As I type this nonsense, I am enduring Love Island as Emily is catching up with the previous episodes in preparation for the new series tomorrow. It is probably best that I don’t start expressing my views on this programme as I have to go to work tomorrow and I’d end up being short of time. My blood pressure may also suffer.

Have a good week.

Till the next time…..

A Sentimental Journey

Thanks to everyone for your best wishes for my Dad. He came out of hospital on Monday, feeling a million times better than when he went in, with a new collection of pills to add to his daily intake.

An unexpected planning milestone happened last week. There I was minding my own business after work on Friday, contemplating how on earth I had made it through the endless week just gone, and looking forward to the week off I had booked for next week, browsing some social media. A post appeared about a Floridatix sale on theme park tickets, so I gave it a click, expecting to be baited and switched as is often the case with these promos.

Whilst the saving won’t be changing my retirement plans, the discount was worth an earlier than planned investment. Our 14 day ultimate was priced at £350 (until the end of Monday if that helps anyone) and after browsing some competitor sites and seeing them at anything from £390 to £365 I took the plunge. It was helpful that they could be reserved for a tenner each and so we’re done for tickets nice and early with the balance to pay in July. Lovely stuff.

Did I mention that it’s been another long, weary week? This business of not having holidayed for over 12 months now seems to be taking its toll. We should never do that again. It is a default position of course, but I am missing the comforting embrace of Florida. As the doctor recently confirmed, my body is yearning for its orange ball of Vitamin D to warm my bones and ease my cares. My cholesterol levels are in danger of dipping back into normal parameters, so I need at least two weeks of calorific carnage to avoid that at all costs.

At times, as I sit in another one of *those* meetings, attempting to convince everyone, but mostly myself, that I am interested and engaged, I can find myself drifting mentally to a certain scenario. It differs, I guess depending upon my mood or memory, but usually it is something like this.

It is just after dusk. I am on the monorail as it glides silently past the Grand Floridian stop, heading for the Magic Kingdom. The sky is still a little red, burned with the after glow of the sunset, and all around the Seven Seas Lagoon lights twinkle, giving the scene a magical glow.

Inside the monorail, the familiar bings and bongs sound and the chocolate voiced announcer wraps me up in the comfort his familiar words.

We all exchange a knowing glance to recognise the significance of that random phrase.

The early evening atmosphere of the just gone dark gives the place a whole new feel. The doors open now as we alight at the Magic Kingdom and more lights twinkle as we wander down the ramp towards the promise of a night of memories and mice. There’s a hint of as yet unrecognisable music drifting on the breeze towards us. The still warm temperatures relax my body as unusually it does not need to tense against a chill and the world feels full of wonder and possibilities.

The walk up Main Street is a familiar one and the castle draws us in like a tractor beam, changing colour behind the endless procession of folks taking those photos that will stand on mantelpieces and desks the world over. This visit is a relaxed one, it feels like it is later in the holiday, we’ve done the commando stuff earlier in the trip and the rides have been done. This is all about soaking in the place, absorbing it into our blood streams, saving it up for protection against the grey, cold winter months away from this place. We inevitably end up at the partners statue and take yet another photograph to add to all the others. All of this is familiar and unique in equal measure, and that may well be the ethos and appeal of WDW in one short phrase.

A moment is taken to just sit and watch. Every person passing has this going on. They may not know it yet, but all this will come back to them in a meeting, in a moment of grief or in a conversation with a friend. I’ll be part of it, a small cog in what made their trip what it was, and they part of mine. Families of all shapes, sizes and nationality experiencing the same thing in their own unique way.

Of course, most of them will be doing it wrong, but hey, what can you do? 🙂

All of this is a mashup made up of a hundred memories from different times. As Rebecca reminded me the other day, this trip will be her 18th. Even I hadn’t imagined the number to be that high, but I am more happy than ashamed of that! I can’t begin to compute my total, well I could, but it would take a while.

I told you I was missing it. You’d never know it though would you?

Till the next time….

Endless ESTAs

It’s been a tough old week. Sure it was only four days long, but having had a busy weekend, I started it running at around 3% of my battery, with no hope of recharging until Saturday.

We’ve been eating buffet food for most of the week, so it’s not been all bad. I think I will have to admit defeat now and throw away what’s left before it becomes a health hazard.

I took advantage of the bank holiday Monday by applying for all of our ESTAs. I was convinced that most of them were still valid, but I was wrong. Only Emily has one that will cover our next trip so I completed six applications in one sitting and I was done by sometime on Wednesday. Is it me or have those forms got a whole lot more complex in recent years? I think I gave fewer personal details on my last mortgage application. I’m old enough to remember trying to fill in green forms on the tray table on the plane whilst Colin from Barnsley in front of you reclined his seat half way through.

As expected, we initially got the pending message for all of them but when I checked the next day we had all been approved for travel. That’s a good thing as I would hate to have to leave anyone behind.

I had no need to apply for ESTAs yet of course. Someone more sensible than I may have waited until a few weeks before we travel to have the two-year period cover as many trips as possible. Call me stupid, but doing ESTAs feels like a bank holiday task and completing the forms just made the trip feel a little closer. Sometimes, you just need that, right? Plus, should Freddie’s criminal record be a problem and he be denied entry we wouldn’t have much time to do anything about it.

At a tenner each, I am happy to sacrifice the few months we may lose for that peace of mind, and who is to say we will always go at the same time of year over the next two years. We are no longer shackled by the cruel mistress of the school term. The peninsula of Florida is our oyster whenever our hearts desire…and we can afford it….and can get time of work….and find someone to mind the dogs…but other than that…whenever we like.

I also had my first look at theme park tickets last week. It is nice and simple this time as we are only doing the Disney thing, so the 14 day ultimate is all we need. It seems they are around £360 each at the moment. As we will be on Disney property pretty much every day of the trip that’s about £30 a day. That’s less than the Alton Towers daily rate, so I feel comfy with that price. Offer me a ticket for Reflections Of Earth for £30 and I’d be likely to throw my money at you before you increased the price, so getting everything else thrown in as well seems decent. It appears that this price also includes the Memory Maker. We had that on the last trip and failed to use it at all. I don’t know why that was, but my guess is that I felt it would delay our movements by a vital few seconds having to wait for the official photographer to snap  and scan us and I preferred to do my usual snap and move technique.

It probably increased the number of rides we managed to get on by around zero. Having said that we only did four days in WDW on the last trip so I’ll blame that instead.

That recharging I suggested I was in need of at the start of this post still hasn’t happened. Louise has been working all weekend so all the lovely household tasks have fallen to me, whilst she selfishly has fun tending to Bolton’s sick, including a long overdue tip run. Then, last night, young Freddie stayed with us. That’s always lovely but there’s a reason most people have babies in their younger years. I’m shattered.

He’s been a little star though. He slept from 10.30 until after 9am and he’s since had some breakfast, a bath and is now flat out again. Life at six months old is something we all aspire to.

We treated Freddie to a bit of Eurovision last night. It was the usual mix of insanity, mediocrity and dross, but I don’t know if you spotted Tim Tracker representing Albania?

A strange career development but fair play to him! Maybe that’s what he means by paying the price?

Till the next time…..

Summer Lovin’

I love the summer. I only hope that next year it falls on a weekend.

I have blogged previously about my aversion to winter. As well as being at times sad in a not groovy kind of way (I am down with the kids and all their lingo), I do believe that I have a case of SAD, (seasonal affective disorderthe thing which makes you all grumpy and down when the sun goes away.

The last couple of days of decent weather reminded me yet again that I and pretty much all of the country are different in the sunsheeeeine, as Mr Gallagher may put it. Even Bean, our nut job of a cocker spaniel is a big fan. When the weather is warm we leave the back door open and she can be found outside lying in the sun.

All of this may make some sense, but only some, of my love of Florida. It’s called the sunsheeeeine (I’ll stop now) state after all. It’s not something I’ve made up. I have been under the doctor recently. That sounds a bit odd, but you know what I mean. I have felt a bit crap for ages and yet as many tests have confirmed, I apparently have absolutely nothing wrong with me. So this is just how you feel at my age? Eight hundred and four blood tests can’t be wrong!

However, after my last visit I have been declared deficient. That won’t be a surprise, but that deficiency is not in intelligence (not officially anyway), charm or good looks, but hey you knew that right, but instead, in Vitamin D. I have to take the stuff, having had it prescribed. What that really means is that the doctor says I must get more Vitamin D, which means I need more exposure to the sun and ergo, the doctor says I need to go to Florida more.

Sadly, that isn’t something the over stretched, under funded and short-staffed NHS (a bit more politics, but hey my wife’s a nurse, so don’t @ me as the kids might say) can afford, but it is official, my poor efforts so far in spending as much time (and money) there as possible have been frankly, poor and I must do better.

So knowing that my country and climate are making me ill, and with it being some 128 days until I land in some better stuff, what is to be done? Clearly the UK has shot its bolt weather wise for this year as I sit here looking at some rain, and I have unavoidable incidentals like the mortgage, food and other nonsense to use my meagre earnings on so perhaps I need to buy one of those sun lamps that my Mum had in the seventies?

My only option seems to be to start a petition to have my incurable disease addressed on the NHS. Me living in Florida for around nine months of the year looks to be the only way to address this crisis. I can tolerate the UK from say June to the end of August, which will be a blessing to the UK tax payer and a sacrifice I am willing to make. Naturally, all of my family will need to be funded too as I will need their help and support to get me to all the theme parks and restaurants. The risk of me being “a bit tired” when all alone is not one that I wish to burden the conscience of the medial profession with. I am caring and compassionate in that way.

The light at the end of the tunnel for the NHS is that by living in Florida for most of the year I shall die nice and early from an obesity related disease and to keep costs to a minimum I shall have my ashes strewn outside the nearest Applebees during one of their happy hours so that those attending can pop in and get a lovely meal and a couple of cocktails at minimum expense.

So happy Autumn. That paddling pool you bought on Wednesday can go in the shed now until next year and you can pat yourself on the back that you only invested in a couple of disposable barbecues rather than that £2500 gas powered thing you keep promising yourself.

Feel free to write to your local MP to highlight my struggle.

Till the next time…..

Disney Beef

Well, my illness of which I do not speak has taken all of last week to go away. I still hack up the odd lung now and we’re two weeks from the start of the illness of which I do not speak. See, I told you I was ill, or I would have if I spoke about it.

If you’ve been reading here for a while you will have noticed that I have slipped in the odd reference to me being banned from a certain Facebook Disney group. I won’t name it, but I’ll bet most of you can guess which one. I have the distinction of being banned despite never having posted in it. It’s a source of regular amusement for me. From time to time the online Disney community can be a right set of dicks it seems. I don’t aim that at the admin of that Facebook group. It’s their group and they can be as stupid as they wish with their rules, it is more of a general comment.

My online echo chamber, from a Disney perspective is made up of what I see to be exclusively nice folks that I first “met” on The Dibb and then from my trip reports, blogging etc. Anyone who thought I was a dick has long since fallen by the way side and everyone I interact with are without exception, lovely, supportive and a joy to have around. There’s a hardcore of Disney folks, most I have never met, that now make up part of my feeds on almost all the social medias. We have met a few of them too and they have been without exception lovely folks.

At the time when I was writing trip reports on The Dibb and they were quite popular I came across a very small taste of what these higher profile vloggers and bloggers seem to get from time to time. People suspected I was cashing in and making heaps of cash and making veiled comments about the fact that trip reports should be free for others to get information from etc etc. They always were (and still are) online, I did the books for a few reasons…

  • Everyone told me I should
  • I was planning to write a novel and wanted to learn how to self-publish etc
  • They are a great way to preserve our memories should The Dibb ever explode.

Anyway, I wasn’t making money, I don’t from my blog, but perceptions are everything and sometimes a little jealousy/resentment can happen to anyone, even when in my case it absolutely wasn’t needed or justified as I’m just not that good at it.

(Oh, by the way….go and buy one of my books!) 🙂

Anywho, this week I saw The Trackers having some beef on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know, and it won’t be many, The Trackers are a very popular couple who vlog every day. They’ve become a success because their videos are good. It’s a simple concept but there you go. They come over well on camera, do good content and aren’t dicks. In the land of YouTube they are a rare oasis in the sea of over exuberant follower addicts with their hauls, giveaways and overly enthusiastic false demeanour. My twitter timeline is awash every day with follow suggestions for “Hey, we’re Ben and Kate (made up names) a couple from Random Town, England and we vlog our WDW trips and share the magic”, and they have about 17 followers. Just my opinion but most YouTubers aren’t bearable to watch for me, but The Trackers get it right I think. For those who love vlogging that of course is fine and it’s none of my business, but it’s just an example of the huge numbers out there doing it and how well those like The Trackers do to stand out.

YouTube is a jungle and I know very little about it, but outside of the Disney community the big vloggers all now seem to have a book deal, some a record deal and all in all have found some way to monetise their followers. Fair play to them. It beats working for a living and I know I couldn’t do it.

So back to this beef. I couldn’t get to the bottom of it from the tweets I saw but someone on Twitter has it in for them. They seem to be upset about them getting paid for some content/videos and/or being invited to special stuff and maybe even getting certain activities or accommodation funded. I don’t get it really. It’s the obvious result of them having almost 300,000 subscribers, most of whom like Disney stuff. I’m not sure what they are expected to do really. Turn down invites to stuff that will make great content for their channel? Refuse any sort of monetary compensation and/or not take any money from ads on their videos. That’s how YouTube is funded, they are creating content folks want to watch so I don’t see the issue.

It may be a green eyed monster for sure. Like anything, once something gets popular it is hard for it to stay the same. They will get shitty comments on some videos, they will get trolls, they will get people who resent them for all sorts of reasons. The effort they must have put it in to get to this point is unimaginable. I’ve had this blog since 2009 and it reaches a good number of people, but the effort, expense and commitment to “breakthrough” is beyond me. It isn’t that important to me and I don’t have the time and maybe the ability.

So if you are trolling The Trackers or anyone else making something of themselves, have a word with yourself. They aren’t perfect human beings and exposing your life as they do on a daily basis must be exhausting. Sure they could stop, but they clearly enjoy it and I’m sure it’s nice to have the attention they do and be stopped in the parks for photos. That even used to happen to us every now and again and it is a lovely feeling.

Now, having written all of that as the protector of things vlogger/blogger, what does grind my gears is when I see WDW themselves posting stuff about some random Mummy blogger writing about a freebie trip they have been given. That to me is different, mainly because they didn’t ask me ( 🙂  ) but also because that is a bit blatant for my liking. If anything it makes me less likely to be booking a WDW holiday. Now of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t, but it irks me a bit. Am I a hypocrite? Almost certainly…. Anyway, you can troll me in the comments to let me know!

Till the next time….


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