Friday, 19 January 2018

Super League 2018 Preview - Huddersfield Giants

It’s been a period of steady decline for Huddersfield Giants since they carried off the League Leaders Shield back in 2013, but there were signs in the second half of last season that under Rick Stone the Giants could be back on track.

Stone took over the reins from Paul Anderson towards the end of the 2016 regular season after the former Bradford and Saints prop had begun to stagnate in the role. Slowly, surely the Giants have improved under the stewardship of Stone and after a run of nine wins in 14 outings were in contention for a semi-final spot entering the final weeks of the 2017 Super 8s before falling away again. Now they will look to produce their best form from the get-go and banish any suggestions that they may slide back into obscurity and the indignity of the Qualifiers.

Stone hasn’t changed much in terms of personnel for 2018. Only prop Adam Walne from Salford Red Devils and utility forward Colton Roche from Bradford Bulls have been added to the Giants squad, while the only major losses are halfback Jamie Ellis who has joined Castleford Tigers and 2008 World Cup winning front rower Sam Rapira who has taken up an offer from Toulouse in the Championship. There’s an argument that Stone’s squad could have done with a little more reinforcement to turn it into a genuine semi-final contender but there are still reasons for the Giants to be confident this time around.

Chief among those is the presence of Jermaine McGillvary. The 29-year-old winger was the man of the tournament for England at the World Cup recently, and has scored 142 tries for the Giants since joining the club in 2007. His next appearance for the Giants will be his 200th, a figure that is particularly pleasing for the West Yorkshire side considering the amount of interest in McGillvary from both NRL and Super League clubs following his exploits with England. McGillvary is one of the home grown stars of Super League at a time when fewer and fewer seem to be coming through and can be relied upon to be in the vicinity of the top of the try-scoring charts year in and year out.

Complimenting him in the backs is fullback Jake Mamo. The former Newcastle Knights man scored 12 tries in just nine appearances for the Giants in 2017 before a foot injury ended his season prematurely. He looks a genuine star, and a player who excites fans who should add something special not just to Huddersfield but to the competition as a whole in 2018. The problem is that the rest of the backline looks a little stale, with doubts about whether Leroy Cudjoe, Jordan Turner and company can still have a significant impact on Super League. Aaron Murphy is an under-rated performer but you get the feeling that if injuries hit in the three-quarters it could prove fatal to the Giants’ semi-final hopes and even their top eight prospects.

If there are doubts about the three-quarter line then the same questions must be asked of the halfbacks. Danny Brough is one of the best scrum halves of the Super League era, but is not getting any younger at 35. He also enters the season under the added pressure of having disgraced himself in being sent home from Scotland’s World Cup squad having been deemed too inebriated to board a flight to travel to the team’s crucial final group game with Samoa. He can hardly put that down to lack of experience or immaturity so disciplinary issues are never an unlikely outcome with Brough. Alongside him Lee Gaskell and Jordan Rankin are both capable but suspiciously limited players who have it all to do to prove that they can help Brough make the Giants truly competitive at the top end of the table. Brough’s kicking game will always be a major asset to the Giants but at some point Stone is going to have to come up with another solution to the midfield puzzle.

A lesson from last year might be to make a better start to the season. The Giants won just two of their first nine games last term, although that run did include draws with both Wigan and St.Helens. Their tenth outing was a 31-12 victory over eventual champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley and signalled a run of five wins in seven outings which hauled them back into the top eight mix. An away trip to Hull FC in their opener might not be conducive to making that good start before both Warrington and Saints visit the John Smith’s Stadium and March begins with a visit to Wakefield. At least a couple of wins on the board by then are essential if the Giants are to give themselves a reasonable platform from which to mount a realistic challenge for the top eight and so give themselves a shot at the semi-finals.

In all likelihood they will come up short of that, but should have enough to stay clear of the bottom four and the August crap shoot with the best that the Championship has to offer.

Up front Tom Symonds will be like a new signing after missing much of 2017, while Sebastine Ikahihifo made more tackle busts than anyone else in Super League last season and was among the Giants most consistent performers in the pack. Ollie Roberts will look to build on a great World Cup with Ireland while stalwarts like Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ukuma Ta’ai, Dale Ferguson, Paul Clough and Daniel Smith all remain.

Super League 2018 Preview - Catalans Dragons

As we get set for what seems like the inevitable addition of Toronto and Toulouse to Super League it is tempting to wonder what would have happened had Catalans Dragons not overcome Leigh Centurions in last season’s Million Pound Game. Relegation for the French side would have been a metaphorical knee in the nuts for the expansionists who insist that our game needs to have a presence in France, Canada, USA and South West Nigeria in order to validate itself. As it was the Dragons survived and, under coach Steve McNamara, look well placed to make a better fist of the Super League campaign in 2018.

The Dragons have made two late but potentially important signings in the off season. Fullback David Mead has joined from Brisbane Broncos after an impressive World Cup with Papua New Guinea, while the capture of Michael McIlorum from Wigan looks a real coup. That is if the 30-year-old hooker can stay fit. He missed all of 2016 with a broken ankle suffered in that year’s World Club Series match with Brisbane, and made 20 appearances in what was another stop-start season in 2017 as the Warriors toiled and hilariously failed to make the semi-finals. Yet when fit and on form there is little doubt that McIlorum will add quality to the Dragons pack, particularly in defence where his aggression and high work rate can often inspire others.

Also arriving from Wigan is utility back Lewis Tierney on a permanent deal after a loan spell last season, while Antoni Maria is back from Leigh Centurions. Benjamin Jullien also returns to France after starting out at Avignon and taking in spells at North Wales Crusaders, Rochdale and latterly Warrington.

Of those departing perhaps the biggest loss is Richie Myler who has taken up the challenge of replacing Danny McGuire at Leeds Rhinos. Another halfback has retired in the form of veteran Thomas Bosc, while powerful three-quarter Krisnan Inu has joined Widnes Vikings. In the pack the biggest loss is undoubtedly back rower Justin Horo who after 45 appearances in two seasons with the Dragons following spells in the NRL with Parramatta and Manly will start 2018 with Wakefield Trinity. Myler’s exit places further pressure on former Saints halfback Luke Walsh to try and guide the Dragons team around the field, though Tongan World Cup squad member Samisoni Langi has arrived from Leigh Centurions also. Langi was unused during the Tongans’ spectacular run to the semi-finals and managed just nine games for the Centurions last term, but if he can establish himself as a regular halfback partner for Walsh the Dragons should have something to build on in the creative department. Nineteen year-old half Lucas Albert featured less last term but is a good young prospect who should benefit from the experience of Walsh and who is a more than capable replacement should injuries or suspensions bite.

Already on board with the Dragons and going around again in 2018 the key player might be Greg Bird. The man capped 17 times by Australia made just seven appearances for the Dragons in 2017 after joining the club from Gold Coast Titans, but in those games he showed enough to indicate that he can raise the performance of the whole side. Never a stranger to controversy, Bird is nevertheless a player of proven quality and his ability to stay fit will be a massive key to whether the Dragons can improve on last season’s disappointing showing. Also huge for the Dragons will be pack stars like Remi Casty, Paul Aiton, Sam Moa and Louis Anderson, while Benjamin Garcia’s return from Penrith Panthers in the NRL is also a much needed boost. Garcia scored 10 tries in 48 games in his first stint with the Dragons between 2013-15 and after failing to make an impression with the Panthers at first grade level will be determined to prove his quality in Super League once more.

Ever since the Dragons joined Super League back in 2006 the main stumbling block to their success has been their away form. They just haven’t travelled well, and in 2017 that continued when they won just three times on the road in the regular season, and none after beating Huddersfield Giants at the John Smith’s Stadium in Round 9 in April. McNamara has already spoken about the need to address that and a different approach to the extra travelling involved for the Dragons looks likely this time around.

It’s a big season for the Dragons, not least because they are likely to be joined by another couple of non-UK outfits when the clubs and the RFL finally thrash out an agreement about what the competition will look like in 2019 and beyond. All-French clashes with Toulouse look a particularly tasty prospect while any match-ups with Toronto would have a truly international flavour whatever reservations the doubters like this writer may have. Though the likely restructure might well save them, another appearance in the Million Pound Game is not what the Catalans faithful will be looking for, and not what McNamara needs as he looks to rebuild his coaching reputation in this country following his uninspiring period in charge of the England team.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2018 Super League Preview - Castleford Tigers

You would be forgiven for thinking there was some confusion about who the current Super League champions are. Ask anyone from Castleford, particularly those responsible for the sound system at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, and they might leave you with the impression that it is Daryl Powell’s Tigers. Queen songs and commemorative scarves filled the Wheldon Road air after their League Leaders Shield victory was sealed in July but those pesky rules got in the way, leaving Leeds Rhinos to carry off Grand Final honours. Oh, and the actual Super League trophy.

We can argue all day about whether this is just. Of course any sane competition in sport would place greater emphasis and bestow titles on the team that finishes top of the pile at the end of the league season. But this is rugby league and Super League is not any sane competition. Rules is rules and as a consequence we can all have a good laugh at Castleford for blowing it when it really mattered, scant consolation for us for the fact that they so cruelly knocked us off our own path to Old Trafford in that extra-time thriller in September.

Powell and his troops will be looking to get the monkey off their back in 2018 then, and go one better by lifting the title. Reflecting on his side’s Grand Final defeat to the Rhinos Powell opined that you have to lose one to win one, which makes some sort of sense in as far as his side will no doubt be wiser for the experience. But it is not strictly true. Try telling it to Terry Griffiths for example, who carried off the world snooker title in his first appearance at the Crucible in 1979. Or conversely the Buffalo Bills, who appeared in four Super Bowls in a row in the early 1990s and lost them all. They still haven’t won one.

The side that dominated the league in 2017 is largely still intact apart from one rather conspicuous figure. The overwhelming black shadowy thing looming over the 2018 Cas vintage is the probable loss of Zak Hardaker who was sensationally and unceremoniously dropped from the Grand Final squad just days before the game as it later transpired that he had tested positive for cocaine. Hardaker turned in another monumental performance in 2017, every bit the equal of his Man Of Steel winning effort for Leeds in 2015 and his absence and the furore surrounding it was almost certainly a big reason why the Tigers couldn’t quite get it done at Old Trafford. Uncertainty surrounds the currently suspended Hardaker who somehow still hasn’t been dealt with. Hardly surprising given that there appears to be nobody in charge of the RFL and even when there is they will be told what to do by Ian Lenaghan, Gary Hetherington and Eamonn McManus in any case. For now, don’t expect to see Hardaker but do expect the Tigers’ efficiency to take something of a hit.

Veteran prop Andy Lynch has finally retired along with the sparsely used former Warrington winger Joel Monaghan, but apart from that the losses have been kept to a minimum and consist mostly of fringe players. Ben Crooks, Kevin Larroyer and Larne Patrick have stepped down a division with Leigh Centurions while perhaps it is with some surprise that we note that promising half Tom Holmes has been allowed to join Featherstone Rovers. Offsetting that loss both Jamie Ellis and Cory Aston have arrived to assist Luke Gale in the midfield now that Ben Roberts looks likely to convert to fullback to fill the Hardaker-shaped hole in that position. Gale was named Man Of Steel in 2017 but was widely panned for some uninspiring performances in England’s World Cup campaign. Yet for now he remains unchallenged as the best English scrum half in the competition and will again be key to the Tigers’ hopes.

Among the names coming in are the versatile Joe Wardle who joins from NRL outfit Newcastle Knights following the now fashionable one-year stint down of the Englishman down under. The former Huddersfield man played 17 times for the Knights and will add to Powell’s options in both the second row of the pack and perhaps in the centres. You can pretty much throw Wardle in anywhere and he will give you seven out of ten every week, but he may not be the kind of inspiring difference maker that you might expect a side looking to push on from such a successful season to recruit. Similarly Gary Lo shone brightly in Papua New Guinea’s World Cup journey but is largely untried at the highest level of the domestic game. He has spent the last two years playing in the Championship with Sheffield Eagles after starting out in his homeland with the PNG Hunters. A winger who has scored more than a try per game for the Eagles, he might just turn out to be the perfect fit for a side which loves nothing better than to give it a bit of width and watch their wide men rack up the points. Both Denny Solomona (spits) and last year’s top try-line botherer Greg Eden can attest to that.

The Tigers have it tough to start out with a visit to our very own Saints on the opening weekend. Justin Holbrook has changed the culture at Saints, talking recently of the importance of finishing in the top two and therefore getting a home semi-final come playoff time. All of which is a pleasant change from the previous philosophy under Keiron Cunningham which at times made us Saints fans feel like we should be lucky to be competing for a top eight spot in a salary capped sport. If the Tigers can past that test they have it a little easier with a home clash with everyone’s favourites for the wooden spoon Widnes Vikings before taking on both Hull clubs as February turns into March.

While it is unlikely that Castleford will dominate the regular season in 2018 in quite the same way as they did last term they are still a very realistic contender for the top four and could, with a fair wind and an opponent who isn’t Leeds, make up for their Grand Final heartbreak.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Rugby League Blog

Are you looking forward to the new rugby league season? If you are, it is almost certainly because you are a rugby league nut who would watch endless re-runs of a 4-4 draw between Keighley and Rochdale from a cold Wednesday in 1982 if it were the only rugby league available.

If you’re not looking forward to it the first thing to say is that you should be. Despite attempts to dilute it to death with set completion and going through the processes, rugby league remains the most exciting sport in the world for me. Which may or may not be because there is a top flight team on my doorstep but regardless, the fact that the forthcoming season is an exciting prospect is inarguable to those steeped in the game, however much we may moan about Matty Smith’s kicking game. If you’re not looking forward to it then it is likely to be because you didn’t know, before you read the opening preamble of this post, that it was actually happening. It's not exactly been promoted with any great enthusiasm by its paymaster broadcasters at Sky, nor do the national press ever go out of their way to give it a push when there are perfectly good union snoozefests to blather on about. Or the latest playground tussle between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

It is easy to blame the media and I often do, but rugby league is not really helping itself at present. The game is in a bit of turmoil as we prepare to enter the 23rd season of Super League in just 16 days from the time of writing. Amid whispers of yet another change of structure we don’t quite know whether the 2018 season will be the last of the marmite that is the Super 8s format, and whether those battling it out to avoid relegation at the end of it will actually be in any jeopardy at all. Whichever way they go the issue needs sorting out fast. We just can’t let the 2018 season begin without knowing exactly how the sport is going to be structured for 2019 and beyond. Well, that would be like going into a four-year parliament cycle propped up by religious zealots at huge expense without really knowing whether they are going to back you on the major issues. And who in their right mind would do that?

The great sticking point in rugby league at the moment is that it is the clubs, rather than the governing body the RFL, who are charged with making the decision. As great as it is, ours must be one of the few sports on the planet that has a governing body that is all but powerless, totally in thrall to the wishes of the self-styled giant clubs at the top of the British game. Yet even they aren’t bullish enough to do away with the concept of democracy altogether. They need to agree on a way forward and the fact of the matter is that at the moment that agreement is beyond them. Do they want to keep the present Super 8s system? Do they want to move to 14 teams in the top flight? Will promotion and relegation stay, or be deferred for a period of time? They just can’t decide, hence there has been no announcement about what will happen after the grandly titled Super League XXIII draws to a close in October.

The removal of the much maligned Nigel Wood from the top job in the RFL has been celebrated by many amid old jokes about finger buffets and the demise of Halifax, but while Wood prepares to impart the same lack of influence on the international game in his new role in the RLIF it has left the RFL rudderless and even more powerless. Andy Burnham is the kind of personality the game needs, a man who seems to carry real political weight. Yet his recent appointment to the role of RFL President seems largely ceremonial and it is unlikely that he will have any real effect on the way the organisation conducts its business and runs the game. He’ll be around to present cups and shake hands at all the right times, while offering a stream of positive vibes about the game, but he won’t stride into Leeds on horseback and order the Rhinos hierarchy to run a reserve team, nor issue any edicts about how many teams should be in each tier of the structure and whether or not there should be movement between divisions. There is nobody steering the ship and it is somewhat out of control at just the wrong time.

One of the principal reasons why the issue of structure within the leagues is so difficult to resolve is that anything outside the top tier of Super League is still viewed by most clubs as the sporting wilderness. The lack of a proper television deal for the Championship has rendered that competition a graveyard to be avoided at all costs in the minds of those in Super League. Sky currently hold the rights to Championship games but steadfastly refuse to broadcast them, with the exception of the Summer Bash in Blackpool, that one-off fixture at the Magic Weekend between Toulouse and Toronto, and the Qualifiers at the end of the regular season. You get the feeling that as long as this is the case the top flight clubs would like to pull up the drawbridge now and abolish relegation once more, but they’re in a bind over the fact that there are probably more than the requisite 12 clubs who could reasonably be expected to put together a decent Super League club. What to do with the excess?

Some have suggested that a move to 14 teams is all but inevitable, and that the decision to include the Toulouse v Toronto Championship fixture in this year’s Magic Weekend is a foreshadowing of that. But what if we kept the present structure of 12 clubs and instead worked on strengthening the second tier so that it would be a more enticing proposition to the broadcasters? If we could establish 20 clubs of a similar standing in terms of their infra-structures there could be scope for two leagues of 10 clubs, with a two-up, two-down promotion and relegation system in which the drop to the lower level would not necessarily mean the financial abyss and crowds of 500. All would be expected to run reserve and academy sides so that competition at that level would thrive also, and players coming into the game would not fall into the bottomless pit that is the current gap between the under-19s and the first team. It’s a given that we need to have solid foundations in place at the very lowest age groups, but it is just as important that we don’t lose those players who have just got a foothold in the game because they can’t quite make the jump from under-19s to Super League.

In amongst all this moaning and doom and gloom there is plenty to be positive about. Justin Holbrook is talking about the importance of a home semi-final, meaning that we won’t be entering the season with the dubious aim of just about reaching the top four as we have done in the last couple of years under Keiron Cunningham. Ben Barba is a Saints player, and in Danny Richardson, Mark Percival, Regan Grace and Luke Thompson we have some of the brightest prospects in the British game. Away from Saints Hull derbies are back on the agenda with the promotion last term of Hull KR to join what is already a formidable Hull FC side under Lee Radford, while Warrington’s overhaul under Steve Price looks interesting. Best of all, Wigan look like they are going to be decidedly rubbish and I think we can all agree that is something we can enjoy together. But big decisions have to be made about the long term future of the game and they have to be made quickly if the game is to prosper in the coming years.

Monday, 27 November 2017

We Need To Talk About Tesco

We need to talk about Tesco.

Specifically the Tesco over the road from where I work on Tithebarn Street in Liverpool. Some months ago now I went over there with the lofty ambition of buying some lunch. I know, imagine. Even Richard Fucking Branson wouldn't try it. It has the worst levels of wheelchair access seen in Merseyside since I had to climb three flights of stairs in Crystals in 1995. Oddly there is a flight of stairs leading down to the shop floor from the street level in this particular Tesco. This may or may not have been avoidable when it was built, or it may just have been designed like that to inspire ranty blogs like this one. I couldn't say which, but no publicity is bad publicity even if only seven people read it.

To combat the stairs problem they have installed a lift just big enough for one wheelchair user. If I wanted to go in there with a group of mates from my old basketball club for we'd all have to book a week off work otherwise there just wouldn't be time to get us all in and out. It would be like the old riddle about the chicken, the fox and the bag of seeds. They can't all go across the river at once. But whatever you think of that it's access I suppose. A big fat rich company doing what it has to according to legislation, which will become a theme of this piece.

Back to the specifics then. The lift is located very close to a set of shelves upon which are usually stacked things like Terry's chocolate oranges and After Eights. These goods stick out from their shelves and on this occasion did so to the extent that they were actually blocking the lift from descending. I'm at the top of the stairs or, more specifically, somewhere between the top of the stairs and the shop floor where the lift has stopped. From that position I can't communicate with any members of staff to get any assistance. Not unless I have their mobile numbers. Nobody comes to help, so I am at this point relying on the good will of other customers to either alert the staff to the situation or to remove the obstacles. One unfortunate soul chooses the latter option and in so doing proceeds to knock several dozen boxes of the After Eights on to the shop floor. They are everywhere, like rats in a sewer in an Indiana Jones movie. He hates rats, you know?

I hate Tesco. Still, even with the floor strewn with minty after dinner chocolaty things, the staff fail to respond to the situation. Their apathy is only rivalled by that of Sky Sports for the Rugby League World Cup. What? You thought I would write an entire piece without getting a rugby league reference in? Aye, more chance of the Daily Mail neglecting to mention Brexit. The situation is becoming embarrassing. Through no fault of my own I have caused what can only be described as a scene. When I eventually get in I complain vociferously that it's not good enough and they, as they always do, assure me that they will not let it happen again. And then over the next few days and weeks it happens again, and again and again. Often when I turn up there are no minty obstacles to the lift but it just doesn't move. There are controls by the door at the top and bottom of the lift and if the staff so choose they can set it so that only they can operate it. Meaning that if you need to use it you need to ask for assistance. But you can't ask for assistance because you are sat at the top of the stairs and there are 750,000 people in there buying cheese sandwiches and fucking yoghurts. And anyway why should I have to ask for assistance? They have this rule at train stations. Apparently disabled people have no need to go anywhere urgently and on the spare of the moment by train and if they do well it is just too bad. And anyway why do Tesco find it so amusing to set up their lift so that it can't be manually operated by customers? Is it a game they play to relieve the boredom of shelf-stacking and serving hungry students?

Maybe, but the primary reason is because I hate Tesco, that's why. Today I went in there to find a new variant of the game. A new code if you like. Dotted around the store on any given day you will usually find large trolleys stacked either with goods to go on to the shelves or empty boxes which used to contain goods which are now on the shelves. No doubt blocking the lift. Today it was the latter which filled the trolley which they had handily placed INSIDE THE LIFT. Now remembering that in the first place there is barely enough room for Mini Me to swing Mini Mr Bigglesworth, trying to get in there with your wheelchair became a non-starter. It probably would not have moved anyway due to the sheer weight of the trolley. Again a customer has to alert the staff to this because the staff do absolutely nothing. All of which leads to more embarrassment, especially as on my way down I am again halted by the trolley, which they have placed next to the lift where the After Eights used to be so that it catches on the lift and stops it. Eventually a member of staff comes over and moves the trolley, but the lift has one more bit of defiance in it, catching again on something that has obviously been left lying around underneath it. Some After Eights perhaps or some far right literature explaining why disabled people shouldn't be allowed to go shopping in any case. Nelson Mandella escaped confinement quicker than I did today.

What I wanted to do at this point is tell the member of staff what an absolute fucking omnishambles all of this is. But because I know I am also going to need help to get the fruit that I need for my lunch which they have placed on the top shelf as if it is a copy of fucking Razzle, I have to be nice to them. Or as nice as my rapidly thinning patience will allow. Finally believing that I will escape this madness relatively unscathed I go back to the lift to leave the store only to find that it has stopped working altogether. On this occasion there are staff on hand to fiddle about with it pointlessly, but they don't seem to be all that well acquainted with what the fuck they are doing. It takes another five minutes to get the thing going so that I can get out, which may not seem like much but when you already feel like you have been in there for half of your life and you only get an hour for your lunch, is rather longer.

Here's the thing. They don't care. Despite my repeated complaints, out and out bollockings and even despite a strongly worded email or two from Emma they do nothing. The awful truth is that they can do without me. I go in there for my lunch two or three times a week and when I do I spend around £3.00. As far as they are concerned if some biff decides to spend his £6.00-£9.00 a week somewhere else then so be it. If everyone needed to use that lift to get into the store to spend their money it would be fixed overnight and we would never hear any more about it. The fact of the matter is that accessibility legislation doesn't go far enough. They have to provide access in some form but if it breaks down they can just stick the metaphorical vees up at you and in this case without even so much as an apology. It is the very definition of lip service. The best bit is that two of the three alternatives to this store for acquiring what might be described as lunch items are Tescos! This is capitalism in the 21st century! They are allowed three or four stores within a nat's chuff of each other, meanwhile anti-monopoly legislation means that I have to have 17 different broadcasting subscriptions to be able to choose freely what I want to watch on television. This is why Emma and I are the only people left in the UK who have never seen Peaky Blinders but that's another story. Tory Britain ladies and gentlemen, Tory Britain.

I recognise that I hardly have an enormous audience but if the seven or so people that will read this are made aware that this particular Tesco is utter shite and not worth their time I will have done my bit. I am not hopeful because no publicity is bad publicity as I've already said. I wouldn't be surprised to find the seven people that read this doing so on their mobile phones, shaking your head at the injustice of it all while idly reaching for £20 worth of crap from that very same Tesco to boost their coffers further. We're all very easy to offend and it doesn't take much to inspire outrage in us. But don't ask us to actually do anything about it.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

How To Make Bad News Worse

I am going to try to articulate something about this here not only because there is space to fill (the rest of the Florida blog will follow in due course whether you like it or you don’t) but also because it might help me. I’m not doing so well.

On Tuesday afternoon I went for my four-monthly visit to the nephrologist. Since 2013 I have turned up there roughly every 12 weeks to discuss the thorny issue of my ongoing kidney disease. That was diagnosed originally in 2007, so for the last 10 years my admittedly battered kidneys have been chugging along well enough for me to function. The usual drill with the nephrologist is a short discussion about what medication I am on, whether to change it or add to it, and then to be sent on my way with instructions to get my blood tested so that there are some results to discuss on my next visit.

From the very start I was told that my kidneys would get worse, and that things like a transplant or dialysis would be likely at some point. So I was expecting to turn up one day and find out that the time had come to consider these things. I wasn’t expecting that day to be Tuesday afternoon. I had a blood test the previous Tuesday in preparation for this appointment. The results of that showed that my kidney function had dropped to a miserable 18%. It has never been more than about 28% in all that time since the diagnosis but, said my specialist, 18% is getting towards the point where they start thinking about a transplant. He warned me that if the function did not spike back above 20% at the time of my next visit then we would have to have that conversation. Start preparing, was the term I think he used.

Now there is a chance that it will improve. It has a history of bouncing up and down a bit over the last 10 years but it has never been as low as 18% before. I don’t usually ask them to give me a percentage figure on it but I could see from the graph that it was at an all-time low. The consultant wanted me to return in six weeks for another test to see if there was any improvement but I wasn’t having any of that. Stubborn as I am, I told him I would come back in December as I would have done anyway, and talk about it then if the situation hasn’t improved. He didn’t seem to have a problem with that so that’s where we are. Hoping for an improvement but unable to do anything to really boost the chances of that beyond remembering to take all of my medication on time and not trying to wing it for more than three or four hours without going for a wee. Simple stuff like this can damage your kidneys.

The thing is that, being me, I can’t help but be extremely negative about the whole shebang. Four or five people have already relayed stories to me about people they know (and one case the person telling the story was doing so from personal experience) who have had kidney transplants and gained a whole new lease of life. It is an indisputable fact that if I have a successful kidney transplant I will be better off than I am now, or better off than I have been at any time during the last four years. I’m less certain about the previous six years because the truth is that after the initial diagnosis I buried my head in the sand and ignored it until I became ill, which duly happened in the summer of 2013 when my potassium levels hit the roof. Even so, even with the firm belief that it would improve the situation I am still filled with dread about the whole idea of a transplant. Dread mixed in with a little bit of bemusement. It is hard to get my head around the idea of putting myself at risk on a surgeon’s table when I don’t feel ill, and in fact feel like I could go on like this for years. It almost feels like I would be taking an unnecessary risk to have the transplant now.

Of course it wouldn’t be now. I’m four months away from that discussion at least, and the consultant said that the average waiting time for a transplant involving a living donor is around six months. So let’s say my function does not improve in the next four months, and that we can immediately find a living donor (I have about 75 cousins who appear to be forming an orderly queue already, crazy people) then we can expect the transplant to take place some time next summer. If the recent decline in function is the start of a trend then who knows how I will feel by then? Maybe at that time I’ll be glad of the opportunity to get rid of my ailing organs and get myself something with a bit more oomph. But if by that time I still feel the way I do now, physically I mean, then I can’t shake the feeling that I’d be taking a risk when it would not be absolutely necessary.

If we are looking for reasons why I always see the negative, apart from my borderline personality disorder and my regular bouts of depression, then look no further than Other Disabled People. Already in my lifetime I have lost more friends and acquaintances with similar disabilities to me than I care to mention. One only this year. He was two years older than I am now. At school, at least once or twice a year you would turn up in the morning to the news that someone you knew in a different class had passed away. On one occasion when the school bus turned up at the house of one young lad to pick him up there was a black van outside the house waiting to take his body away after he had died earlier that morning. It was truly horrific.

There have been varying reasons for their deaths, none of them were down to a failed kidney transplant as it happens. Yet you can’t help but compare yourself to these unfortunate souls. What is it about people with spina bifida and other disabilities that makes them more vulnerable? These people should not have died of the things that took them. They were too young.

The consultant knows none of what I have seen on school buses and in life, and so he was very relaxed about the whole concept of a transplant when he broached the subject. He told me I was still a young man and that a successful transplant is, on average, good for around 10-15 years for a man of my age. And even then you can have another one. Two is apparently common. Some people have three or four. All well and good, but he can afford to be relaxed about it when he has no real investment in the outcome. If it doesn’t work out for me he hasn’t lost anything. It’s left to me to worry about what happens to Emma in particular if I’m not around in a year or two’s time. If you read that last sentence back you will see just how far my negative thinking has got me over the last couple of days. I am considering a return to counselling.

And yet all of it is useless. Not the counselling, which is actually rather helpful in my experience, but the worrying. What’s the point of fretting about something that probably won’t happen? Yes, I’ll probably have to have a transplant one day but the chances of it failing immediately are, I’m told, something like 1 in 100. That’s a 99% chance of some measure of success. After a year, the consultant reckons that the figure of still functioning transplanted kidneys is around 93%. So you can see how the average transplanted kidney is expected to last around 10-15 years. In all likelihood it is a better option than dialysis, which is far too restrictive on your lifestyle for my liking. Surprisingly, the consultant also said that dialysis would be a secondary option to a transplant in my case, and that it would not be necessary until we hit around 8-12% function.

So what I am clumsily coming around to saying is that the odds are heavily in favour of a better situation after transplantation than the one I am in now. Plodding along with function in the low 20’s at best. I’d expect to feel a whole lot better than I do now with a new kidney. I said earlier that I don’t feel ill and that I feel like I could go on like this for years, but I am certainly making do. I don’t have nearly as much energy as I should have and it might just be that I’ve become accustomed to that feeling as the norm and that actually it is abnormal.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t convinced myself that having a transplant sooner rather than later is the right way to go. I can write it, I can reason with myself and get reassurance from medical experts, but I’m still going to be fairly terrified if I take the decision to have a transplant. Or if that decision is taken for me. Unless we get to a point when I turn a strange colour and feel utterly terrible I will always have the suspicion that I would have been fine if they had left me as I am. My own definition of fine, anyway.

Let’s go back to Florida and try to forget about it and I’ll update you in December.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Disney 2017 - Culprits In The Field Of Sounding Like They Serve Beer But Don't

Did you know that it is virtually impossible to get a drink in Disney's Magic Kingdom? An alcoholic drink, I mean. You can buy these great big McDonald's style cartons for about $14 (about £10.60) which you can refill (at participating outlets) throughout the park as many times as you like with your favourite soft drinks. But I mean a beer. After three days of very hectic and very dry scurrying around theme parks we decided to make our last day in the resort a bit more of a drinky day. But Magic Kingdom was a bad choice for that particular aim.

There are bars, or at least places that have names that make them sound like bars or pubs. It is just that none of them seem to sell any alcohol. Who would have thought that Gaston's Tavern would be an alcohol free zone, save for their own brew which costs around $15 (£11.40) a pop? Before we discovered this we had to discover Gaston's Tavern, which managed to stay hidden from our admittedly average powers of navigation for around 15 minutes. In the end we had to ask for direction that we would have been 15 minutes better off without. Other culprits in the field of Sounding Like They Serve Beer But Don't are Liberty Tree Tavern, The Sleepy Hollow, The Diamond Horeshoe, The Friar's Nook and Tortuga Tavern.

Now let's talk about the word Tavern for a while, shall we? You will see that it crops up in a number of these beer-less establishments. It is defined by Wikipedia as 'a place of business where people gather to drink alcoholic beverages and be served food, and in most cases , where travellers receive lodging.' I can't comment on whether or not any of these places were offering a bed for the night but if they can't sort you out with half a Bud Light then expectations shouldn't be too high. I know that the name Magic Kingdom properly suggests a fairly young target audience but this being the 21st century I was still slightly baffled and what looked like a total and utter lack of regard for thirsty adults. You can probably buy beer in the restaurants but we didn't have time for that. Magic Kingdom and Epcot are not easily negotiated in a single day if you stop off in a restaurant for a full meal and a couple of pints.

So we pressed on. Something else not aimed at adults is 'The Muppets Present....Great Moments In American History'. But The Muppets, like many things in Disney, is one of those things that although blatantly aimed at children has something for adults of a certain age to enjoy too. Even if it is only nostalgia, and remembering has a three-year-old you used to be afraid of Sam Eagle, but now you can only think of how much he looks like former Liverpool butter-fingered buffoon Sander Westerveld. See if I'm wrong;

The Muppets, Sam, Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and Fozzy are joined by one actor playing the role of an 18th century town crier because guess what, the 'Great Moment In American History' that they are going to talk about in today's show is the Declaration Of Independence in 1776. Apparently there are other 'Great Moments' which they use when they need to change up the show but I couldn't shake the feeling that the American Independence theme was a slightly predictable one. Like getting to the end of a Danny Wilson gig, noting that they haven't done 'Mary's Prayer' and spending not too much time wondering what they will do for an encore.

Still, what is not to like about Kermit as Thomas Jefferson, Gonzo as John Adams and Fozzy as Benjamin Franklin? Miss Piggy spends much of her time implying that to prevent her from playing George Washington would be some kind of sexual discrimination and so, as always happens with Miss Piggy, a true satire on the female diva, she ends up getting her way. For his part Sam constantly interrupts from the window across the way at the currently closed Hall Of Presidents, while much of the action goes on in the windows of the Heritage House. Well, the puppeteers need somewhere where they can stay out of sight, but the voices are genuinely provided by those who provide them on the telly.

You might think it a little bit beneath your intellectual level but if you have ever been to the Hall Of Presidents, currently closed so that they can presumably add an animatronic version of orange-faced misogynist Donald Trump to the collection, you will surely agree that the space is currently being used to much greater effect.

I could recount the experience of Stitch's Great Escape but why don't you just go here for a brief overview. The experience seven years on is the same but different if you know what I mean. Still no option to transfer from your wheelchair, still a lot of wafting and whizzing past your head, and still containing some unpleasant bodily emissions from the title character;

So let's skip straight over to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. It is not dissimilar to Toy Story Midway Mania over at Hollywood Studios but it can't quite match it for playability. The targets are mostly stationary but are referred to as 'Z' insignias in the blurb. Basically round, stripy disks with a great big 'Z' which you have to try to hit with your laser gun. Unfortunately there is no visual evidence of where your shot has landed, just a red laser light showing you where to aim. So throughout most of the ride you won't be certain which targets you hit and which you did not. Where I found it did better Toy Story Midway Mania is in the access department. I had no need for Hightower-like seat removal here and most mobile wheelchair users should be able to transfer to the vehicle easily enough. There may be a contingency plan for anyone who cannot, but since I didn't have that problem I never found out. I know, annoying. This happens to me a lot. Someone will come back from a fantastic holiday and wax lyrical to me about how much I would have enjoyed it, but then stare blankly at me when I ask them if everything they have been describing is accessible. They don't know because they don't need to. Then again, they are not writing a disability-focused blog about their life experiences are they?

When you leave the ride you pass through a room which has one wall covered in photographs of people recently on the ride. There is a scanner by each image, but after a few minutes perusal we are sure that there is no photo of us. Emma gets into a right tangle after scanning her Magic Band (remember those?) for reasons that are best known to her. Anyway, she frets about being charged for someone else's photographs but that threat never materialises. I still have no idea how you go about getting your photograph on that wall and why you need the scanners beside each image but to be honest I am not sure I need to know. I hate having my photograph taken at the best of times, but judging by some of the ridiculous faces pulled by the people in these photographs this would be a whole new level of Photo Hell.

Thirstier than Bill Weberniuk after a stint in The Priory we took in a parade on the way out of the park as we made our way to towards the much more drinker-friendly Epcot. Parades seem smaller now than they did in 2010. The park staff still cordon the road off and make a very big deal of it when a parade is due, but whereas they seemed to go on for a good half an hour back then the one we saw seemed to last only half of that. I can only conclude that this is because they have realised that if people are standing around watching people dressed up as Disney characters dance around on large wagons then they are not spending their money in the restaurants. Which is the only place they sell any beer in the Magic Kingdom.

Disney 2017 - Ripping The Front Seat Out Like Hightower In Police Academy

It was a relatively fleeting visit to Hollywood Studios this time around. Time was limited with only two days to cover all four Disney parks before we moved on to St.Petersburg. That meant trying to fit Hollywood Studios into one afternoon and evening, which meant being quite selective.

First up and an absolute must on any visit to Hollywood Studios is Toy Story Midway Mania. It's basically a shoot-em-up in the Men In Black traditions but it's better than the currently closed ride at Universal. The targets are screen-based with clear points values plastered across them. And they are easier to hit. The access bit is a little different in this one. I had been transferring from my chair to every other ride but the gap between the edge of the seat and the front of the vehicle is very narrow and makes it difficult if you're a fat lad like me. Maybe even if you're not. It's just awkward. Fear not though, because there is an accessible vehicle which allows you to stay in your chair for the ride. They just rip one of the front seats out like Hightower in Police Academy, and then strap you down like they do in an accessible taxi.

As it turned out we had two goes on this one, thanks mostly to another biblical downpour which started just after we finished the first ride. We'd been asked to move away from the entrance to the corridor if we wanted to take shelter, and with little prospect of making it anywhere else for the foreseeable future we thought why not go back down the corridor and have another go. It's not as if it costs you any more once you are in the park. At this point I have to admit that Emma beat my score on the ride on both occasions, even though I hit a far higher percentage of targets than she did second time around. I will never know how this happened.

When we thought it had stopped we went about trying to find somewhere to have a drink. But it hadn't quite stopped and so we got caught in it again just across the road from the Tune-In Lounge. We sat there under a barely adequate canopy wondering whether to stick or twist. In the end we just had to find a window during which it was raining less heavily to allow us to make the now 10-second journey to the bar without getting too soaked. Once it starts raining in Orlando in the rainy season, usually in the afternoon during our stay, you can never rely on it to stop for very long. Unlike in the mornings when we saw virtually no rain whatsoever.

Tune-In Lounge was small and busy, an unfortunate combination always likely to lead to not having anywhere to sit. Most of the people there were waiting to be given a table in the restaurant next door. They did a very good pint though. There hadn't been much time for drinking on the first few days, which was a similar experience to what we had in 2010. Then, by the time we had got around everything we wanted to see and got back to the villa we were staying at we didn't have the energy to start drinking. We'd watch half an hour of a baseball game on the telly with a soft drink and go to bed. So it was nice to have a bit of time to just enjoy a beer and not worry about how long we would have to wait to get on this ride or that ride. That's the benefit of having been before and being able to be a bit more choosy about what you do. The picture below is what Tune-In Lounge would look like if every seat were not taken;

There was bright sunshine when we emerged from Tune-In Lounge, albeit with still a few specks of rain here and there. We made our way over to what in my opinion is Hollywood Studios' main attraction, Star Tours. This is the park's Star Wars-based simulator. Last time we were here it took the form of an X-Wing flight, soaring through Beggars Canyon or some such while trying to avoid being blown to shit by Imperial Fighters. This time was different again, with C-3PO sat at the front of the vehicle giving you a running commentary as you race through several of Star Wars' famous locations. Threepio is really there. He's not animated. He's more like a robot perched upon a platform at the front of the vehicle as in the picture below.

At one point Darth Vader rocks up, sending you hurtling backwards with just a wave of his force-powered hand. He says something but I can't remember for the life of me what it is. It is dark and sinister. This is not the humorous approach taken by the Simpsons ride. Vader isn't known for his sense of humour even if most classic villains wouldn't be classic villains without their laughter. You might not be guaranteed to see him anyway. Apparently there are lots and lots of different scenarios so that if you have enough time to queue up for the ride more than once you are very likely to get a different experience. We didn't have time to test this theory but how clever is that? It blows my mind that they can put together one film that is precisely in sync with the movements of your seat in the vehicle but to know that there are lots of them is even more amazing. It's genius and they must spend months working on it. No wonder they charge you a bloody fortune to get into places like this.

We finished at the Backlot Express just next door to Star Tours. You might not get what I mean from the picture below but it looks like a warehouse or a factory floor but is actually a fast food restaurant. We went to sit in a quiet area of seating away from all the families with their stupidly loud children throwing food at each other. Within five minutes of sitting down they had closed off the area we were in and wouldn't allow anyone else to sit there even though every other table apart from ours was vacant. It was getting late but when this happens it just makes you feel unwelcome. Like the DJ turning on the lights at Lowies in the mid-90s. They're not actually saying it, not verbally, but what they mean is 'please fuck off now while we clean this place up.'

Eventually we did just that.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Disney's Animal Kingdom 2017 - Avatar - A Far Cry From That Boke In Emmerdale That You Were Meant To Hate

A new addition to Disney's Animal Kingdom since our 2010 visit is Pandora - The World Of Avatar. Dedicated to all things related to James Cameron's frankly odd film about blue people (or something) it opened just seven weeks before we arrived. As a film Avatar is fairly over-rated, and the idea that they would dedicate a whole area of a major Disney theme park to it is a little surprising. What I do like about it though is that its main protagonist is a wheelchair user. Only a pretend one, mind. Sam Worthington couldn't put up with the shit that I have to on a daily basis but his character has to. Anyway, his story is a refreshing change from all the negativity around disability. A far cry from that obnoxious bloke in Emmerdale that you were meant to hate.

This being a recently opened attraction you'd better get there early. We arrived shortly after 8.00am, which when you consider that the park doesn't open until 9.00am certainly qualifies as early. We knew that there would be queues and potentially a lot of waiting. We weren't the only ones aware of this. Even at that time there were masses of people in front of us in the queue. Americans aren't good at queuing. It was a bit of a scrum, and it continued as we eventually made our way in. They let us in around 8.30, but only for the privilege of being able to stay in the enormous queue as it wound its way down from the entrance to Pandora. Nothing would be open and available until 9.00. I don't know how much distance we covered in that queue but it must have been a couple of miles at least. When we got to the end of the queue for the main ride - Flight Of Passage - there were signs indicating that it would be a 90-minute wait between the end of the queue and the ride. Ninety minutes! Things you can do in 90 minutes;

Watch three episodes of Emmerdale featuring that obnoxious bloke that you were meant to hate
Make your full England international debut
Drive home from Barnsley to St Helens on a Friday afternoon when you are meant to be in a psychology lecture
Watch over half of Avatar
Procrastinate at your desk when there is mountains of work to do

But the thing about this particular queue is that, like the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game it doesn't stop. You are always on the move in the queue. You get quite the tour of Pandora that way, and if the 90-minute prediction was correct then at the pace we were moving we would have covered many more miles. But it wasn't 90 minutes at all. It was more like 40 before we actually got on the ride, which makes me think that they just put up these signs indicating outlandish waiting times to put some people off and thus reduce the numbers. I remember Liverpool FC doing something similar when they paraded the Champions League trophy (the European Cup to you and me) around Liverpool in 2005. They made an announcement suggesting that it would be a couple more hours before they reached St.George's Hall where most of the people were gathered, and that at a time when tens if not hundreds of thousands of people had already been waiting for around three hours. On that occasion it worked on Emma and I and we went home. We never did see Stevie Me hoisting the trophy he won single-handedly on that open top bus. Yes, I know there were some other footballers involved but you try telling that to the curator of the Anfield museum.

Once you get inside there are many Avatar themed things to keep you amused as you continue to wait to be let on the ride. Consider this, which I fully intend to use as my profile picture should I ever need to join Tinder;

Everybody in that queue took a photograph of this similar to this one. It was almost like it was a condition of getting on the ride. Whether everyone else has imagined using it for their never-to-be-created Tinder profile I couldn't say.

Anyway, back to the ride. Before you actually get on it there is what can only be described as the rigmarole of being 'synced' to an Avatar to go through. This wholly unnecessary and entirely make believe process involves standing on a designated number that is printed on the floor of the holding room. Or sitting on it in your chair, obviously. I couldn't help but note the irony of the fact that Worthington's character wouldn't be able to stand on his pissing designated number. Or maybe he would when he's asleep. Oh I don't bloody know. The idea is that you, mere mortal, cannot take a Flight Of Passage on a banshee (for that is what these massive blue winged beasts are known as) alone. You can only do it if you are as one or 'synced' with an Avatar. Cynics have two options when evaluating this concept. Either you think it is just a way of drawing out the experience so that you don't feel like you have queued for what could have been 90 minutes (but wasn't) just for a few minutes on the ride, or it is another way of distracting you from the fact that what you are actually doing is still waiting to get on the ride. Make up your own mind when you get there about whether the syncing process is part of the experience or not. The official line is that since humans cannot ride on a banshee what they are doing is recreating that experience for you via the Avatar. Which to me sounds like a pretty lame excuse for being unable to design a ride vehicle that looks like a banshee but I'm not the Avatar expert. Their explanation could be entirely plausible.

Finally you are lead to a room which again has numbers printed on the floor. This time they represent the numbers of the vehicles on the ride, so you move along to the one at your designated number. This is where it gets tricky for wheelchair users. The vehicle is not so much like a blue-winged beast or banshee, and more like a motorbike. There is no room to transfer on to it from the side so you have to try to slide on from the back of it. I just about managed this but not without considering the very real possibility that my jeans would end up around my ankles.

Clearly I am not the most experienced when it comes to sitting on anything resembling a bike, so I was briefly concerned about having some balance issues once the thing got going. Worry not, because before it starts support for both your sides and back magically appears. So now it is like being sat on a bike but with a high back rest and maybe some side guards. You're not going anywhere.

Which is a good job, because from the moment it starts and the vehicle starts to tilt forwards in a similar manner to what we'd seen with the Gringotts Bank Ride at Universal you know you are going to need those supports. At the very beginning of the ride it simulates swooping down from the top of a cliff towards the water. It's indescribable how that feels. Exhilarating but also eye-popping and a little bit bracing. After that first drop it never quite reaches those heights again because you know what to expect from then on. As with the others you can rationalise it at all times knowing that you are not really moving off the spot, even if you are being thrust sideways, upwards, downwards, forwards and backwards. It might sound a bit sickening but it is colossal fun and the visuals and the sound effects are wondrous. You can even here the banshee breathing beneath your legs which is a little bit confusing given that you are told that you are not able to ride as a human and that you are experiencing this because of the syncing with the Avatar. Regardless of such nit-pickery it is all hugely enjoyable and the only thing stopping you from rejoining the queue immediately for another go is the thought that the waiting time will be at least as long if not longer than last time and, this being Disney, you have plenty to get through.

We were even more pressed for time because we only had two more days in Disney's theme parks before we were to move on to St Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball game on Friday night. So that meant trying to do Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom and Epcot in that time. We would have to be selective.

Hindsight would have probably led us to skip Pandora's other main attraction (apart from its fantastic scenery) the Na'vi River Journey. It's visually impressive but if you are not that familiar with Avatar you won't really know what you are looking at as you amble along in your little boat. But it's biggest flaw is that it is too slow and gentle to raise any excitement. It reminded me of the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios that we tried out in 2010. Occasionally diverting but mostly a little bit dull.

Of much more interest is the Kilamajaro Safari. This was one we had done before but is definitely worth a second go. You go aboard a large safari vehicle and get around a tour of the park lasting around 20 minutes. During that time you get to see the free-roaming animals that live in Disney's Animal Kingdom which include elephants, giraffe, the customary bongos and, legend has it though we didn't see any, lions. We were advised by Sarah, our driver, that the night time tour is the one in which you are most likely to spot a lion or two. But you know, this is a zoo and spotting lions is something we can do 20 miles away from home. It wasn't a priority here. For accessibility fans, I remember this tour being a little more bumpy last time out and having to hold on during certain parts. This time it seemed more gentle, but if I'm honest I can't remember whether that is because they have amended it or because I now have better brakes.

If you are one of those crazy people who is frightened of spiders then best avoid 'It's Tough To Be A Bug', the park's 3D show based on animated insect-flick 'A Bug's Life'. Eight legged freaks come at you from all angles in this one much to the terror of many of the kids present. You can also expect to get wet again, and for things to get a bit whiffy when a stink bug named Claire De Room (see what they did there?) let's one go. The central theme of the show is about why bugs and insects and other such creepy horrible things should be considered friends (no, not Piers Morgan) but after 10 minutes of this you might be forgiven for coming out of the theatre disliking bugs and grubs that little bit more than when you went in. So long as you realise their importance to the eco-systems I think Disney will be happy. Or if you spend a few dollars in the mandatory gift shop on the way out.

After a brief trek down the trails in which you can find the park's gorillas and tigers it was time to hop back on the Disney bus and get on over to Hollywood Studios for the afternoon.