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)