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2004 Florida Blog

Florida Blog 2004

Now, before reading this, let me explain. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when we first visited Florida, my Family had moved there. My Father, Ernie, and his wife Carol, with daughter Victoria and grand-daughter Destiny. (Yes, I know). At the time of this blog, they lived in Southern Dunes, a lovely place just off the 27 near to Haines City. During visits to Florida with the family, it became clear that there had to be separate visits done for golf purposes, that just involved “The Lads”. Russell, a lifelong friend, was one of those lads.
We’d pop over for just a week, and relax, drink beer, and play golf. Russell provided one of the best stories I’ve ever witnessed in Florida, that will appear on a separate blog, but needless to say, at the time, he suffered with his bowels, Irritable bowels if you will, and toilet usage was at the forefront of his mind. He’s fine now, in fact, everyone in the blog is fine.
The only request from my family is that I bring back gifts. On this trip, I was asked to seek out a 14 ft trampoline cover, as the one in the garden was getting untidy.
Read on..

Day One.

OK, lets see…this is the four hundredth time I’ve been to Florida, and the sixtieth with Russell, and associates thereof.
There are several things to note prior to reading on.
Firstly, there are supposed to be no traffic problems between our home in Ruislip and Gatwick.
Secondly, there are no toilets on the said M25 and M23 roads, in direct contravention of European Law and Human Rights Sec 876(a)(1) Strasburg Convention Act 1998.
Thirdly, and I quote, “Why the hell does this happen to me on a Wednesday morning, in the pissing rain, miles from any bog, whilst my stomach rumbles due to a Chinese take away last night, AND I had a heavenly shit this morning….bloody 4×4 driver trying not to do the speed limit that’s why…I’ll be OK once we’re at the airport, but I hate this journey Glyn”.

Morning everyone…..

21st April 2004, and my 5pm alarm goes off. Up for a shower. A much needed shower, as a less than well-educated assumption that I would get a good nights sleep on a leather sofa wearing a nylon and silk football shirt backfired.
Imagine, if you will, The sweatiest man in the world, wearing Polar expedition gear, in the Sahara, having just had a hot bath, after eating a 4 alarm chilli, in a sauna, watching Cameron Diaz getting in on with Drew Barrymore, whilst being filmed by the women from Friends, yes all three of them, naked, and holding the worlds biggest hot water bottle, that’s just been micro-waved. Well, that’s as close as I can get to describing how statically charged and, yes, sweaty I got. Anyway, I managed to fight through the festival of empty shampoo and lotion bottles, and had what can only be described as a lovely shower.

The journey to the airport was slightly marred by a small traffic jam on the M23, the fact that Sir Thomas Speedman, designer and pioneer of the motorway system in the UK did not build toilets at one mile intervals, and there was the matter of Russ having forgotten his driving licence, realised only when we were driving past a sign that said “Welcome to Gatwick Airport…have you got all yer documents then?”…

Then the Computer battery went, and all creative writings had to be put on hold. So much happened and there’s so much to remember, so I’ll try and do the last 24 hours hour by hour, if you get what I mean…here goes….

At 11am, we got on a Virgin Plane bound for Florida. Tossed for the window seat which Russell won, but he graciously gave it to me.
At 12noon we took off and watched as the wings flapped, arses twitched, and the ground got smaller below us.
Several Jack Daniels later for medicinal purposes, and the same things were happening, wings flapping, arses twitching, and the ground got smaller.
At 1pm the captain announces a drawing competition for the children on board, with prizes. He asks for a picture of Mickey Mouse, and the best drawing will get chocolate. Well, it would have been rude not to enter one for Russell, and so a picture was entered by the “child” in seat 28b, Russ Williams aged 39.
When the drawings were collected, the Captain announced that all the kids had won chocolate, and a special mention went out to Russ, who was handed a bottle of white wine for his “Entry”. Thing is, it was a really crap drawing of the mouse, really really crap, if fact, it looked more like Mickey Rooney. Anyway, a slow ride to Florida was broken up by arguments about who farted, what film was best, and the fact that in 5,4,3,2,1 hours we would be there, drinking tequila and mooning the natives….wasn’t far wrong as it happens…

At 4pm we landed safely, and cleared customs and immigration in double record time. Russ got stopped and frisked.
I walked through a metal detector wearing sunglasses, a watch, nipple ring (metal), a belt, change in my pocket AND wearing ice skates, and passed without a beep. Russ however beeped. He removed his watch. Beep. He took off his belt. Beep. He took out all his change and wallet. Beep. He took off his shoes. Beep. He took off his socks…all clear…what’s that all about ? Have the USA customs finally found out about old Wire Socks Williams ? Mad……

At 5pm we’re out and we’re clear! Within half an hour we are nicely ensconced in the salubrious surroundings of the Outback, a small drink and dining establishment off the 192. Ye Ha!
“Oh go on then, just one more” seemed to be all that was said by everyone, until we got thrown out by the manager, who generously poured us into a car and handed over our keys…what a nice man. I think we then came home, and I think I went to bed. I have a hangover.

Anyway, it’s now tomorrow, or the next day, so I’ll continue..

Day 2

“What the F***?….I must have looked in there 4 times”.
This was exactly how Russ described the lost passport, including those of his family, in his hand luggage, after a search that uncovered the original Bible, Shergar, two keys, Lord Lucan and time travel. Two immaculate passports in his name…wait a minute…..theoretically Russ could now stay in the US having never been granted entry, and under State law, if this isn’t found out for 7 years he can stay here legally for the rest of his life. Obviously he would have to declare himself dead, but for legal purposes, he could then claim disability benefit and charge the state for his death duties. Having said that, he could just sell the spare passport on E-bay. There’s bound to be some weirdo who gets off on unused passports. Going to play golf now……Later.

Anyway, played golf at Diamondback… named after the 9 foot snake that inhabits these parts. Russ came out in his own buggy, and after seeing pictures of snakes that have been found on the course, wore the new Tommy Hilfiger Armour Collection, featuring chain-mail flip flops and NASA endorsed driving gloves.
Did you hear a phone ringing just then? Neither did Russ…..

We got home and had a BBQ, Dad was feeling as rough as a bears arse so he lay on the sofa and went to sleep, whilst we tucked into sausage, burger and pork chop.
What’s that ringing sound? Not Russell’s phone that’s for sure.
Victoria is sporting a fake Louis Vuitton bag that cost £70. Having ordered from the Vuitton catalogue, I know that the bags start at a whopping £495, and that’s for a hamster nadger sized bag that, at a push, could hold an earring. Still, bless her for thinking it’s real….next week she’s buying a cheap car by Rolls Rince.

Day 3

“Ring my phone”.
“Where is it?”
“Well, it’s either in the golf club bar, in the cart, or God forbid, it’s in the mouth of a yuppy snake, who’s out to impress his already fearsome friends”.

Russ can’t find his phone. It’s 5am and I’m showered, shaved, had a semi good shite and I’m on my way to Diamondback to wrestle a snake, or whoever’s got the phone. Stand by…

Anyway, we found the phone….but more about that in a moment. Firstly let me take you back to the first day. You may remember our intrepid heroes going for a post flight drink at the Outback. Well, on the way home Destiny decided that she wanted to play with Russell’s sunglasses. The £20 ones from Matalan. Well, they put up a brave fight, and initially fought back with pride. However, Destiny is a 4 year old on a mission, a mission to punish anyone who gives her what she asks for (?). Yes, within a second or two, Russ had two pairs of sunglasses, one pair for the left eye, one for the right. Destiny apologised, well, she laughed and threw the glasses back at Russ and shouted “Tosser”, but we took that as an apology. Russ headed to Wal Mart to but another pair, and got a very fetching wrap around effect set for a grand. Unfortunately, as we drove away from the store, the security device on the glasses kicked in, and they fell apart. Got to take them back today…

We drove to the golf course, and scoured the landscape for the phone. We did find it, and where was it? The very first place we looked when we arrived. The drawer behind the pro shop counter.
If only the bloke had looked in that draw labelled “lost property” when we arrived at the course, instead of saying, “No, sorry, no one has handed in a cell phone”. It would have saved us driving around the back nine, saved us questioning every illegal immigrant on the course, saved us risking snake infested fairways looking for clues, saved us beating a confession out of the 120 year old starter, saved him admitting stealing it and giving us a “monkey” for our trouble, and saved the 4000 cigarettes smoked by Russ due to the stress of having lost his phone. Flowers and donations in memory or the bloke in the pro shop can be forwarded to…….

It’s now Friday morning, and we’re going to go to get a hire car now. What will today hold in store for our travellers?

And then God created the hire car.
It’s a Dodge Continent, or Dorango to give it it’s official title. The thing comes with a map so you can find the back of the car. This thing has passport control in the rear it’s so big. It’s so big that it makes a Land Rover look like a small Puch moped that’s been crushed to fit into a small shoe box. The bloke at the rental office, or Ken, said he’d given us a special deal because we reminded him of the Two Ronnies, Kray and Jeremy. He tried to charge us for unlimited mileage, but we refused so he gave it free. He tried to charge us for additional drivers, but we refused so he gave it to us free, He tried to charge us for an upgrade, but when we refused, guess what? He gave it to us for free.
He tried to charge us for the small circus troupe camping in the rear twelve seats, and practising for their forthcoming performance at the Royal Albert Hall, but we refused, and I’m now dating the Trapeze artiste and Russ has a walk on part in the Wheel of Death routine. Did I mention the car was huge…

Shopping next, and off to Wal Mart, Premium Outlets and Sam’s club. Everyone looks at you like you’ve admitted to shooting Kennedy when you ask “Do you have a 14 foot trampoline cover please?”. Still not found one, although a man offered me a 65 square foot tarpaulin that would “do the job”. Thanks. It was 86 degrees yesterday, and so shopping was a sweaty job, but I think I got the nicest item of the day. Shirt. Hilfiger. Pink. Not liked by anyone else.

We ended a typical Floridian Friday night by abiding by the law of the state and going to Outback again. Several beers and a bloomin’ onion later, and we’re home for the card school from hell.
The game was seven card, and then bastard brag. The rules for brag are as follows…
You have three cards, with three more communal cards in the middle. You take it in turns swapping your cards with those in the middle, one at a time, until you have what you consider a winning hand. At this point you “knock”. The other players than have one last turn to maximise their winning potential. Everyone presents their cards, and you find out who has won, and who takes the $1.50 pot. That simple? Is it hell…..
1 You get three cards each and three in the middle.
2 You get a $1 fine for a bum deal, that means you Russ.
3 You get a $1 fine if you knock and don’t win.
4 You get a fine if you shuffle, that means you Russ.
5 You get to knock out of sequence, just to cause a diversion so you can swap cards around win unofficially. Yes you Russ.
6 You then have to ask for the rules to be explained over and over again. Russ.
7 You then change the rules when Ernie gets a straight run, or “full house”, telling him that he has not won the pot, but has simply stopped the game.
8 Finally you give all your money to Ernie anyway, as he’s a past master at cards, has a diploma from the University of Las Vegas, and has a well angled system of mirrors to know exactly when to stack, and when to fleece.
9 Make sure Ernie has all your money.
10 Again. Ernie. Money.

Day 4

Can’t write anymore at the moment, as I have writer’s bollock.

The day started as a quite serene day in the Floridian sunshine. The birds were tweeting, the sun was shining, and somewhere in the distance you could hear the sweet but delicate sound of the toilet being abused.
We were going to go and spend the day shopping, making our way slowly to Terry and Vivien’s home in Sanford, in time for a BBQ, Again, one of Dad’s shortcuts let us down, only this was the great grandmother of all shortcuts.

We left the Millennium Mall and headed for the Florida Mall at 3pm. This is a true story. Twenty-five minutes later, we drove past the front of the Millenium Mall. That’s a 25-minute shortcut that took us nowhere. That’s got to be a record. Got to be I tells ya. We went to the Florida Mall eventually, and then drove up to Sanford to see Terry and Viv.

Upon arrival, we were met with beer and snacks, to be closely followed by steak, spinach, and potatoes. A mountain of beer later and we’re off to bed. Everyone is exactly the same, no one has changed at all, and the house is the always-perfect immaculate house it’s always been.

Day 5

We had breakfast at a local diner in Sanford with Terry, Vivien, Tim and Diane, who have just celebrated their 25th anniversary, that’s not years they’ve been together, but times they’ve split up and got back together in the last year. We set off in search of the elusive 14 foot trampoline cover, which, should we find it, be as exclusive as a round of drinks bought by Victoria. (Only kidding…she’s not that tight… She did once share half a tic-tac with me…..I think). We hit every conceivable mall and shop in Florida before heading home for pie supper.
Nothing much more to say about a day’s shopping, other than we spent ages looking for hats with Von Dutch on the front, the fashion accessory of the moment. These hats, and they’re really crappy trucker style hats that you wouldn’t be seen dead in, even at the “Pretend you’re dead and we’ll give you $2000 Competition – sponsored by Hawaiian Tropic Topless”. Von Dutch. More like Von “Line my pockets with money after getting some thicky Rap artist to wear this cap I found in a rest area in 1973” Dutch. What do I know, I’m 37 this year, and spent a proportion of this morning pretending my arm was a mechanical insult shooter, with optional finger release springs. (Patent Pending).

Day 6

Car has to go back today….Or has it? Russ did a deal with Ken, and as it turns out for a small fee we can keep the car for the duration of the holiday. Hooray I hear you shout, as our fine and intrepid warriors of the Floridian highways now have their own starship in which to explore the unforbidding territories of the United States countryside.
Well, what I mean by that is, “Russ can you drop us at the golf course, and then pick us up later”.
Father has decided that he should finally upgrade his computer and get rid of the abacus and brownie camera affair he’s been using for the last 50 years. There’s a sticker on the side that reads, “Ye Computer. Do not use in the event of famine, flood, plague of locusts or crucifixion”. Nazareth Computer Corp. accept no responsibility for acts of God, or acts of the son of God yet to be born. Anyway, you get the idea. Trouble is, we can’t find one now, so we set about looking.
I get a few things for the kids on a last minute shop at Wal-Mart and Russ buys another t shirt. He’s now the proud owner of 72 this trip. It’s like he has a magnet on his back that draws him to the t shirt isle, makes him buy, and then makes him buy again. The cashiers at Wal-Mart have voted him Shopper of the Month, and have awarded him with a t shirt. We digress.

We went to play golf, and I didn’t have too bad a round. Played to my handicap, and finished it with a spectacular drive, that would have made Tiger Woods, well, laugh really, but he’d have been proud of it when he was 3.

I can’t tell you what Russ did, as I wasn’t there, but I’m going to guess, and I think I’ll be close…

1 Right, got rid of those bastards, time to hit Burger King for a whopper blow out. Got the car to myself, so tune the radio to Kenny G FM and away we go. Turn that bad boy up to 10 !
2 On the way to Burger King, I passed Wendy’s and it would have been rude not to stop. Only had 2 burgers, but they were right tasty. Kenny G FM are now playing the occasional Curtis Stigers hit, so it’s a bit better than before. Rock!
3 Arrive at the first Wal-Mart to see if I can get Ernie a computer. No, fuck him, what’s he ever done for me, I’ll say there wasn’t any, besides, there’s a t shirt stand over there. Ooohhh, one I haven’t seen or purchased yet…
4 Drive up the I4 and go to a second Burger King. They’ve started to give me a frequent visitor discount now, and I get 40%. I order just one whopper. Oh who am I kidding, 5, and head to a second Wal-Mart. Still no computer but plenty of t shirts. (Note to self, ring therapist re: t shirt fetish).
5 Look at watch. Oops it 4.45pm and I have to be back at the golf course by 5pm. Now it’s a 45 minute drive and I only have 5 minutes. Crank Kenny up to 11 and go go go! Make it to the course with a minute to spare, and order a jug of finest beer for the lads. They walk off the course, and my secret is safe. No computer (tee hee) No Kenny G and no Burger King. Suckers!

Only Russ will know if I’m close, and he’ll probably deny all of this…..
What shall we eat tonight? I fancy a blow out at Sonny’s BBQ Pit, but Carol says no.

Day 7

Indeed. We started the very last day of the trip in fine fettle. We were up early, and ready to hit the dollar stores and all others as the sun rose in the east.
Dad said that he’d come with us. Two hours later and we’re off. We go to Target and to a Wal-Mart and then we all decide that we’re hungry.
The Golden Coral do an all you can muster breakfast buffet, and within a nanosecond we’re attacking the sausage like it had just been declared illegal. Russ ate nothing, as he wasn’t hungry.
We went for seconds, bacon, eggs, more sausage, beans, toast, mushrooms, steak, gammon, you name it we had it.
Russ still abstained.
Then we went back for fudge brownies, coconut cakes, blueberry muffins and rice pudding.
Russ decided he’d have a small portion of apple pie and ice cream….

We left the Golden Coral and got the computer for Father, went home and installed it. It started to rain heavier than a heavy thing holding lead.
Russ started to feel ill, and so lay down, and lay down, and took tablets, and slept, and eventually stated that he had been poisoned by a rogue ice cream portion, that had been forced upon him in the Salmonella infested Golden Coral.
Anyway. Russ slept for the rest of the day, whilst I drank beer and had a BBQ, whilst listening to Carol groan on about how I should invest fourteen million dollars in a one bedroom toilet in the Bahamas, and if that’s too much, I should buy an acre of swamp in Kissimmee. Russ eventually surfaced and belched. He calls me a git, sticks his fingers up to me and goes for a smoke. Things are looking normal again.

Day 8

Well, here we are. I’m sat at the airport anxiously anticipation being called for the upgrade that in my heart of hearts I know won’t come. There’s a hundred and one people saying “please upgrade me”, and I think I may have a small advantage over them, but who knows, that bloke in the pilots uniform looks favourite for the best seat. Git.
To say it’s been a relaxing holiday is true. We have both said we missed the family, and we both said it would be great to all come together next time, or sometime. Our last day was spent shopping, packing and eating. We checked our bags in to the Virgin desk in Downtown Disney, which, as it turns out was a right result. No queues, waiting or anything, and it was only 5 bucks each. When we turned up at the airport, it was simply out of the car and in, no messing.
The day was of course marred by the usual routine of Carol asking me to “take things back for the family” and giving me one hundred and twenty thing to pack and deliver. She excelled herself this time though, with the addition of towels for her mother. Well, sod this, I think I’ve towed the line once too often, this time I’m going to mess with their minds. Lilly (80) is getting the lingerie, Harry (81) is getting the Hilfiger t shirt, Percy (12) is getting the towels and Diane (50) is getting the golf jumper.

Getting on the plane now, and hopefully this sleeping tablet will kick in, and the next thing I’ll know is the sound of touchdown at Gatwick. I’d like to thank the following people…
Russ, for being an excellent partner for the adventure, for buying this laptop for the purposes of the trip, for talking me into getting the car, and subsequently extending the duration of the rental, for keeping my feet on the ground by reminding me that I am, in fact, a sleeze, and sticking two fingers up to me with aplomb.
Dad, for letting us stay at his gaff.
Carol, for having to put up with us, cook for us, and talking us into buying a house in Florida.
Victoria, for reminding us that everything we do, say, gesticulate, think about and smile about pisses her off.
And Wives, obviously, for letting us go in the first place.

Never did find that trampoline cover though…..

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