The Trip — 2016: Part 26 — The Swan at Streatley

Di and I went to lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. There is no way to get Di’s scooter safely into the main area of the restaurant; the ramp into the area is both too long and too steep. We ate in the area adjacent to the deli and the bar. The chairs are hard and uncomfortable, and we sat at the “picnic” bench on pillows in the corner.

Trip - Our room from the entry hall.
Our room from the entry hall.

Di had a Pimms and both of us had a salad, shared chips and bread, and I also had an order of mussels. The food was good but slow and it began to rain while we were eating.

Upon returning to our room, the electronic key did not work. So we trekked to the office and we got a new key. Di asked if our phone and light had been fixed and was told that they had.

We returned to our room and I found that, although the light had been fixed (they changed the light bulb), the phone still did not work and walked back to the office to so inform them.

A few minutes later the clerk I had spoken to earlier this morning knocked on our door and told us that the hotel’s staff could not fix the phone and that they would have to call in an outside electrician — tomorrow or later.

Trip - Shower

As I was closing the door, the clerk asked me to hear him out and offered to move us to the next room, a mirror image of ours. I asked Di and she said OK. I returned to the door and told the clerk that we would switch rooms and he proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t do it because he had just been informed that the people next door had extended their stay and that the room was no longer available.

Tricia came to pay a visit after work and while she and Di conversed in our room I headed for the comfortable chairs in the reception area to read. A few chapters later Tricia found me and suggested a drink and, maybe, dinner. The bar in the reception area was closed so we collected Di and headed to the bar/restaurant.

It was raining so Di couldn’t use her electric scooter without getting wet. She sat in her “wheelie” and I pushed her to the bar area, carefully going down the steep and long interior ramp — and then she still had to get up and walk to navigate some steps.

Trip - The loo
The loo

We found a nice sitting area with sofa and chairs and Tricia and I went into the bar to order drinks (Pimms, sherry and whisky and some crisps and nuts). We talked and drank and ate, decided on a second round and went into the restaurant to have dinner in what was really a waiting area — comfortable sofa and chairs, low table. Di had a chocolate dessert of some kind and Tricia and I enjoyed fish and chips.

Following dinner, Tricia returned home and we returned to our room. Although it was still raining, Di put on several layers of clothing to have a last smoke before turning in. It was wet outside but there is a slight roof overhang on the patio (from the balcony above) so she didn’t get too wet.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 25 — Croquet and Swan

Sunday — We rose a little after seven; coffee and tea and a shower later I packed up our belongings. (A bit difficult as we are still down one BA lost suitcase.) Di paid the remainder on our bill and Mima checked us out of the hotel.

Trip - Di's gift from Patrick Mavros
Tricia wearing Di’s gift from Patrick Mavros.

Note: Aside from our quibbles with the “accessible” room (accessible, not specifically designed for those who are handicapped and may need assistance), our stay was quite pleasant. The personnel at both The Old Bank Hotel and The Quod Restaurant were invariably courteous, polite and helpful, including putting out the portable ramp over the entry step for Di’s scooter.

Trip - Tricia's Garden
Tricia’s Garden

Our driver (the same gentleman who took us to Highclere Castle/Downton Abbey the previous week) was waiting in the car park and helped to load our luggage and Di’s scooter. It was a short drive to Goring-Streatley and The Swan Hotel where we left our suitcases; it was too early for check-in. We then wended our way along narrow country roads to Tricia’s home near Newbury (Hampstead-Norreys) — laundry, lunch, family and croquet.

A bit after two in the afternoon Helen, Richard (husband) and Theo (son) arrived after battling London traffic with roads closed and re-routings for an international bike race.

Trip - Theo and Di
Theo and Di

We had a good time with food, wine, a game of croquet and a sisters’ game of Bananagrams. Helen’s family returned to London and Tricia, Di and I played a game of croquet before adjourning to the house.

Trip - Richard

About eight-thirty in the evening Tricia drove us back to our hotel and we recovered our stored luggage and checked in. I thought our room was an improvement over that of the Old Bank in Oxford but Di was disappointed. (When all was said and done, we enjoyed our stay at The Old Bank much more than our stay at The Swan.)

It had a great deal more room and the bathroom has more handholds than our previous room. However, the room was not carpeted and Di was afraid of falling on the hard floor. There are no handholds in the main room and the chairs are on casters — they roll — not a good choice for handicapped people or others who have difficulties with balance.

The bathroom is roomy but there are no handholds from the entry to the toilet nor are there any at the sink. The shower area has more handholds but is the same slippery type of floor as the Old Bank Hotel which necessitates multiple bathmats. There is neither a shower door nor a shower curtain and the shower area is open to the rest of the bathroom.

Trip - Theo, Di, Tricia and Richard
Theo, Di, Tricia and Richard

I made Di some tea on Monday morning and myself some instant coffee in the room this morning. Di went out on the patio for a smoke and book read. I walked to the front desk for a newspaper — there were none. I asked for a directory of services and was assured one would soon be delivered to our room. I then walked around the grounds and found the restaurant. Some of the halls and walkways had ramps and others just stairs. There was no one in the restaurant/bar to answer questions although there were people seated.

Trip - Entry to the Newbury RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) - Joe's wine glass.
Entry to the Newbury RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) – Joe’s wine glass.

Returning to the room, Di wanted to call Pryors for a trip to do some shopping in Newbury on Tuesday — the phone was dead. I went to the front desk and informed the clerk there. A few minutes later another clerk knocked at our door and asked about our fan not working. How can someone get “dead telephone” mixed up with “fan?”

A few minutes later another young man came in to check the phone — another failure. I also told him the light on our patio was out. He said he’d replace the bulb this afternoon. The phone? — he left mumbling something about maintenance.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 24 — Patrick Mavros

Thursday — a quiet day.

Trip - "The Messiah" Antonio Stradivari
“The Messiah” Antonio Stradivari – Ashmolean Museum

We went out late in the morning for Di to have a mani-pedi, etc. at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford. Daniel, the doorman, and I got Di into the hotel on a ramp and eventually got her to the Spa via the lift. I was to come for her early in the afternoon.

I returned to the hotel for a shave, trimmed my facial hair, and a nice, very, hot shower. Afterward I toured the Covered Market and then to the Ashmolean Museum. Spent an hour touring galleries I had missed earlier in the week and took a lot of pictures.

Trip - Daniel and Di at The Randolph
Daniel and Di at The Randolph

The Ashmolean is just across the street from the Randolph and I headed to meet Di. I found Di and Daniel having a smoke by the entry and they told me they had an “incident.” Di had almost fallen off of the ramp (Both the Randolph and the Old Bank have portable ramps so that people with wheelchairs, scooters, etc. can “easily” enter and exit their facilities.) on the stairs but that Daniel had caught Di before she had fallen. All Right!

We returned to our hotel via the Covered Market where Di did some souvenir shopping — t-shirts, ashtrays, and cards.

We had a nice dinner at the Quod and thence to bed.Patrick Mavros Jewelry

Friday — I awoke at four this morning to an infomercial — either Di had been watching something in the middle of the night that she had forgotten to turn off or the TV control that I found on the floor next to her side of the bed had been knocked off the tray and booted the TV.

A car from Pryors picked us up at ten-fifteen for a ride into London and a visit to a jewelry store — Patrick Mavros. Malcolm proved to be a very good driver and the trip was quite a nice ride.

Dropping us off at Mavros’ location about Noon we had an hour and a half to spend there. Despite my misgivings about spending so much time at a jewelry store, I enjoyed myself. The owner was quite a gentleman and the shop was an environment to admire. After seeing this shop I imagine that other jewelers are in a state of envy. The shop is beautiful. The building space is marvelous and interesting and some of the jewelry are works of art.

Trip - DI and Patrick Mavros
DI and Patrick Mavros

Di purchased a necklace for her sister, Tricia.

Patrick, the owner, showed us around the building and shop — quite proud of his business, as he should be. Just a marvelous environment.

Malcolm picked us up at one-thirty and returned us to Oxford. Di had a smoke in the hotel parking lot and we then had tea at the Quod — the waiter asked if I would like to have my usual — yes, said I. We’ve only been here a week and the waiter remembers my whiskey — Good Show.

Saturday — This was to be a lazy day as we are visiting Tricia and switching hotels on the morrow.

Patrick Mavros Jewelry -- Patrick and DiDi went shopping for a gift for Helen but was unable to find anything appropriate after a couple of hours in the Covered Market and department stores.

We had dinner in our room.

(to be continued)

Trip - Traffic on our return to Oxford.
Traffic on our return to Oxford.


Trip - Patrick Mavros Jewelry -- Mauritius Collection
Mauritius Collection

Trip - In Oxford, UK
In Oxford, UK

The Trip — 2016: Part 23 — Buckingham Palace

Wednesday — a long day.

Today was a visit to Buckingham Palace. We got up at seven-thirty or so, had coffee and tea and dressed for the day. About 9:45 am Di headed to the parking lot for a cigarette and while we were there the car from Pryors arrived (they consistently arrived fifteen to thirty minutes early for each engagement). The driver zeroed in on us (Di and her scooter) as his morning passengers and we spoke for a few minutes; he was actually supposed to pick us up at ten-fifteen. Then back inside our room to finish getting ready and we were off at ten-thirty.

It was an easy hour and a half drive to Helen’s home in Putney (London) and we arrived a minute ahead of schedule. She invited our driver in for a cup of tea and to use the loo and the rest of us then settled down for conversation and lunch. Di had a couple of hot-cross buns and Theo, Helen’s son, fixed me a salad (a duplicate of his) with pasta, chicken, smoked salmon and avocado — yum.

A little after one we left for Buckingham Palace (me, Di, Holly and Helen) and met Don and Cathy outside the Palace gates.

One of the very few advantages a disabled person has over others is the accommodations that places like Buckingham Palace make for her. We were met at the gate by an escort (all of this had been pre-arranged by Helen). Our taxi followed our escort to the far side of the pink gravel parking area. At that point we disembarked and transferred to a golf buggy/jitney to get to the security and entry area for the disabled.

Di and the rest of our party got on the golf buggy and I drove Di’s scooter following behind. Back across the parking area and into the inner courtyard. (It was also composed of the pink gravel which gave little traction to the scooter’s one front drive and steering wheel. I had to lean forward to make sure sufficient traction was achieved — all the way watched by alert guards with wicked looking automatic weapons. The one ceremonial guard in the enclosure was armed likewise.)

To the far right of the inner courtyard was a check-in and security area. It took about ten minutes to get everything straight, including tickets, security screening and an iPod-like tour guide with headphones for everyone. The rest of our party walked up the entry steps while I accompanied Di, now in her scooter, to and up the lift into the palace.

We spent the next couple of hours going through the palace tour and special exhibition — Queen Elizabeth‘s robes, fashions, dresses and hats from her christening to today. Dresses? Fashions? Hats? Heavens, does a husband’s work never end or have a vacation? There was much more to the tour than just the special exhibition, and I enjoyed that, but . . . And, then a bit of shopping for a souvenir or two and back out to security and a reversal to the outer gates to get a cab to take us to tea at Fortnum & Mason — for which we had a reserved table at 5 pm.

Unfortunately, picture-taking is prohibited inside the palace gates and I had no proof that I had “scooted” through the parking area. As we approached the outer gates Helen got off the buggy and went outside to take a picture of yours truly astride Di’s scooter — proof — of course, security make Helen stay outside until we joined her a moment later. She used the time to good avail to hail us a cab and then a second one to take us to tea. With Di’s scooter a second cab was necessary as there were six in our party.

We arrived at Fortnum & Mason on time and got a lift to the tea room on the fourth floor. Even though we had a reservation, we did not get seated until five-thirty. Champagne and water arrived fifteen minutes later and tea came after six. Before the tea cakes, sandwiches and scones arrived it was time for us to leave to get in our taxi to return to Oxford and our hotel — the food arrived just as we got up, having already spoken to the manager, complained and not being charged for what we had been able to drink of the tea.

To the loo and down the lift to the taxi, which was on time. Di had a quick smoke. Don and Cathy joined us in the taxi for a ride to their hotel rather than a two-transfer tube ride. We said our goodbyes at their hotel, as we would not see each other again until after our return to California, and had a nice ride back to Oxford.

Having had nothing to eat in London thanks to the fiasco at Fortnum & Mason, we had dinner at the Quod. Di had a cheese and veggie pie and I had a surprisingly good spicy Italian sausage pizza and, of course, a whisky.

Returning to our room the hotel manager paid us a visit as Di had requested. She then proceeded to list, show and demonstrate the room’s shortcomings regarding handicapped and disabled guests — perhaps some good will come of this before some future guest slips on a wet and very slippery bathroom/shower floor. She also discussed the lack of handholds, floor space and storage. Then Di ate the strawberry cheesecake that had been delivered to our room following dinner.

And so, to bed.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 22 — Wadham College

Monday: Today was the day to visit Wadham College, University of Oxford, where Di’s parents’ ashes rest.

Trip - A busker we passed on the walk to Wadham
A busker we passed on the walk to Wadham

When Di’s father, F.F.H. Charlton, died a decade ago, permission was granted to spread his ashes in a private garden on the college grounds. (Ferrier had graduated from Wadham and maintained a relationship with the college afterward.) In a quiet corner the gardener planted a Japanese Maple and Fer’s children and wife spread his ashes beneath. Five years ago we returned and the children spread their mother’s, Lola Charlton, ashes beneath the same tree.

Di wanted to visit her parents while we were in Britain this trip. She made several calls to Wadham to try to arrange a visit but ran into nothing but busy signals. Locating the college just a thousand yards from our hotel, I took a quick walk over this morning to see what I could do for her visit. The Head Porter was quite accommodating as I explained the situation and called the gardener, Andrew, on his mobile. Andrew showed up a minute later and we walked to the back garden as I explained the situation to him. He remembered both planting the tree and spreading the ashes for Fer and our last visit five years ago.

He said he would be very happy to let us in when I brought my wife and her friends to the college later in the day — Hmmm . . . it seems for once I actually did something right.

Trip - Di standing at her parents' tree
Di standing at her parents’ tree

On returning to the hotel, we had tea and coffee with Don and Cathy and then headed to Wadham.

The porter called Andrew who showed up a couple of minutes later. While we were waiting for him Di arranged to purchase a Wadham t-shirt. She then showed where her father lived as a student and Andrew escorted us, and answered our questions, to the back garden. Don and Cathy, especially Don, spent time wandering the garden and being suitably impressed while Di spent some quiet time with her parents.

Trip - Don and Kathy in Wadham's garden
Don and Kathy in Wadham’s garden

A while later we exited by the back way nursery and car park for the workers.

Cathy wanted to look for some shoes so we visited the Clarks shoe store a few blocks away. I waited outside and started a conversation with Henry who arrived just after we did (his wife was shopping inside). We spoke for a few minutes and I found that Henry was a lawyer from Louisiana (As I edit and post this entry I find myself hoping that his was not one of the homes flooded recently in Louisiana.) and would be attending the New Orleans Saints game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego this upcoming season. Don came out and our conversation continued for the next five or ten minutes until Henry’s wife exited the store with a single pair of shoes and they proceeded to their next experience. Cathy and Di exited a few minutes later with no purchases — Di wants to return tomorrow to get some shoes to replace those lost by BA in our baggage fiasco.

Trip - Nursery entry
Nursery entry

We said good-bye to Don and Cathy who were heading to London; we’ll see them on Wednesday for a tour of Buckingham Palace.

Returning to the hotel, we had tea and lunch (I, of course, had a whisky.) and returned to our room for a quiet evening.

Trip - Cottage entry with low doorway. Inset: sign above doorway
Cottage entry with low doorway. Inset: sign above doorway

Tuesday — a day of rest.

(to be continued)