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Tag Archives: travel

The Great Greenwich Expedition

Drafty and drizzly began the day as we boarded our first train heading to the city passing stranded commuters held up by a traffic incident. Our second train a lot more comfortable, the disabled seating is in first class.  We’d just about left the county before we started on our sausage sandwiches.  Big Sis grabbed a copy of the complimentary local paper for its taxing cryptic crossword and once coffee had been purchased we taxed our brains (more like she exercised hers and I confused mine) only one clue not answered.  Being engrossed we hadn’t noticed the time, our train was speed restricted due to animals on the line earlier, instead of arriving at 10.20 it was 10.45. Hey ho.

Map in hand we three stepped forth to Tower Wharf to catch the river taxi to Greenwich. What an easy, slick, comfy operation! We were listening to a guide inform a group. That’s the downside of independent travel, you don’t discover the tidbits of anecdotes. Seamlessly we were there and before us was the vessel floating on her glass ocean. Prior to coming people had remarked how small the ship seemed, but not so to me. We found our way in and the lift down to the cafe beneath the keel. Hmm, first disappointment of the day, the selection was very limited and rather artisan not to mention a little over priced.  Still it was quite something sitting beneath the copper/zinc coated keel, it was fascinating seeing the shaping and riveting, the rudder was hardly very wide at all, and the prow seemed square not really shaped to cut through the water.  There was an impressive collection of figureheads, on show, such fun colourful characters.

Up a level and into the hold, reading various aspects like the crew numbers, miles travelled, how the tea crates were packed, life at the time and the importance of trade.  Think Tetris on a grand scale.  Did you know she transported more than tea?  The tween deck spacious and informative with artefacts from her glory days and the history of her owner.  Up on deck the livestock was housed, as well as the galley, crew bunks, carpenters workshop, bosun’s, officers and captains quarters, there is even a head! Peering in at the wooden crew bunks they looked a bit more spacious than the tallships I’ve sailed!  The deck was a lot wider and more spacious than expected although one or two of the ropes coiled and fastened to their pegs would not have passed our Bosun’s inspections.  Accessibility was very good, with only the quarter decks inaccessible and I didn’t notice the visual alternatives. It was pleasingly atmospheric being surrounded by the wood, teak and rope, the brain managed to recall names of various elements of rigging, sails and infrastructure. Woohoo!

We moved on to the Royal Maritime Museum, we perused the extensive collection of Nelson related items, the Jutland exhibition, the Royal Barge (the jubilee barge Gloriana was based on her) used my one of the George’s, which had another barge following along the Thames bringing the orchestra who played Handle’s Water Music on loop (18th century iPod, lol), the Miss Britain III speed record vessel. A section about the yachts in the America’s Cup race.  I must admit I find these types of museums detached and a little dis interesting.  I was surprised there was practically nothing about knots and rope work, nothing on how sailing works, how is harnesses the wind and makes it move, what a rudder does. 

We ambled our way back to the gastro pub practically beneath the Cutty’s stern, the Gipsy Moth for dinner, two thick slices of ham off the bone, two mighty fried eggs and triple cooked chips. Drool worthy and the comfortable ambience, pleasant staff and surroundings most welcome.  Before long we were back aboard the water taxi, zooming up river to Tower (at least our stops were pretty noticeable) and meandering back to the station.  Giggle of the day? The staff disabled loo at the train station, parked on the throne taking care of business I looked to my right for the signs of loo paper, none there, maybe behind me standing atop the cistern, nope. I glanced across my wheelchair beside the loo and there level with the wheel was the circular container. No chance of reaching it!

On the return journey Big Sis and I attempted the other cryptic crossword in the paper. How did we fair, erm, well, our words fitted the clues and the space but were wrong.

Collapsed into bed 10.45pm, ready to be flat and still.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in General, Life, people

 

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One’s At The BBC!

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“How would you like to be in the One Show studio on Friday with me” was how it started, I took my Sister’s excited high squeal as a yes, lol.  It began with one of those ‘well I’ll just try’ things, a modicum of hope invested but a healthy dollop of disappointment prepared. When the email arrived confirming attendance it was a mad frenzied series of phone calls and web searches to secure the one and only wheelchair seat on the four trains, and to reserve wheelchair accessible hotel room.  All was set for Fridat 30th September, what a way to end the month!

Arriving at BBC Broadcasting House with comfortable time to spare we sat with a drink and panini looking down into the news room, the news studio is underneath the media cafe. Before too long we were booked in, given our yellow wrist bands and grouped together ready to go across to the studio. The lovely audience greeters instructed us that we should have fun, keep watch on the floor manager, watch out for cables and moving cameras etc, and finally could we give a hearty laugh.  We must have passed the audition as we were lead across the piazza through the barriered area and into the studio.

Martin the floor manager introduced himself and shook my hand, placing me and my sister comfortably. He addressed us all, reminding us to be careful of cables, to watch for his signals, to laugh if there is something amusing, clap enthusiastically, and have fun. Seated not more than ten feet on the iconic green sofa were Alex Jones and guest presenter Shane Richie, familiarising themselves with a section of auto-cue. They both turned and greeted every one, I passed my congratulations onto Alex, as it has recently been announced she is expecting her first baby. My first impressions of the studio were how small it was, how calm it was (we were less than five minutes to air).  There are three cameras, the sound guy, props man Dave, the hair stylist and make up lady, as well as other assistants. The monitors showed that we were in the final minute to air when a voice announced “Ladies and Gentlemen Barry Gibb is in the studio” huge applause and cheers from the dozen or so fans there, he waved and as he turned towards the sofa the same voice announced “Ladies and Gentlemen Stephen Gibb is in the studio” more applause and cheers. I was directly opposite the door they came in through, his face was a picture of surprise and glee as he spotted me, pointed and came straight over to hug and kiss me as he was then escorted out to the performance area.

We were on air! In my direct eye line, over Shane’s shoulder was Barry, and to my right peripheral vision was the auto-cue with monitor beneath. Everything felt so calm considering how time conscious live broadcasting must be. Martin had his hand signals to an art, palms up as ‘get ready’, silent clapping to ‘clap enthusiastic’, palms down to signal stop and double thumbs-up as good job done. As the vt’s are run cameras and cables are moved, we are shown our marks for when we could move forward and when we returned to ‘first positions’.  We listened intently to those on the sofas.

It is an eclectic magazine programme, there was a segment about notable cars from the 1970’s being reclassified as ‘classic’ and included a section where Barry and impressionist Jon Culshaw trying to guess the first names of a family who had named their five children after classic cars. Another vt was about singing falsetto. Barry discussed his new album and recounted the tale of running around the house in search of a mini recorder as he had the hook to “You Win Again” in his head and if he went back to sleep he’d forget it.

Barry was to perform the title track from his latest album “In The Now” to close the programme, Stephen is a member of the band. As the last tv was run (about clam fishing is Scotland) we were ushered out the studio and around the piazza to the performance area.  Stephen shouted to me as we massed together, laughing together as we \m/ each other.  The closing piece was broadcast and the performance began, due to issues with sound it was lip synced from a recording taken earlier. Once we were off air Stephen came across to give me another hug and kiss, express his surprise and we exchanged a few words. I introduced him to my big Sister. He gave me his plectrum (in the header photo). Barry met each of us in turn, which was a nice gesture. Stephen had to start packing his kit (they would be going to Elstree Studios for Strictly Come Dancing) and the assistants were waving for us to leave, in order to hand back our wrist bands and have a group shot taken.

After having seen numerous online videos of the various band members, it was exciting to be just a couple of feet away from the familiar faces of Tim Cansfield, Dan Warner, Julio Hernandez, Beth Cohen, Leesa Richards, Charlotte MCKinnon, watching Lee Levin, Doug Emery and Richard Bravo along with Barry and Stephen.

Back at our hotel, I connected to the Internet to watch the programme, which is when we received messages and texts on our phone saying we had been seen! We watched the broadcast with exclamations of “Oh that’s me!” And “There are my feet” and “Doesn’t it look different on the telly” and “Look my feet are in the closing shot”.

Quite the experience. We got rained on getting back to the train station the next morning and our train was delayed because of an incident requiring police and medics at Ilford, we missed our connection, but got home safely, if a little chilled and shattered.

Sometimes investing hope can pay off, but boy it is a rarity.

 

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in In The News, Life, people

 

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The Cost Of Investing Hope

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I am pondering….. contemplating….. wondering….. considering…..

You see, this all hinges on at what point do you resign yourself to the not possible and suffer the mild case of disappointment and despondency versus the okay lets seriously plan out and cost doing, to then have it fall at a hurdle that you cannot overcome but cause and suffer greater despondency, disappointment and depression; because the probability of this coming off is slim but if it does, well, its an experience to dine out on for eons.

This is going to sound vague but, there is a mild possibility of an event a few hundred miles away which if asked I would jump to attend.  It will involve train1, train2, mad dash in taxi across city, train3, taxi to overnight accommodation, taxi to and from event, taxi to train station, train 4, mad dash across city, train5, train6, get home, collapse from exhaustion.  It will involve a degree of hanging about and rather more standing about [well not for me obvs I’m in my chariot but pusher would be standing about].

Now, if I was an able bodied Joe, even if one that has to avoid steps and stairs, there would be no issue. I’d be on my way, even if it was relatively last minute.  But I’m a crip in a chariot, who needs a carer, and to book the one and only wheelchair seat on six specific trains, to find wheelchair accessible taxi’s and wheelchair accommodating accommodation, as well as clarify venue’s facilities for wheelies, etc, etc.

Still, it is all rather hypothetical at present, but this is what deteriorating conditions do to you. Something you did not ask for, do anything to get, slowly takes away all options, skills, desires, dreams and renders you sarcastic, bitter, annoyed, pitiful, selfish, and many other such words all covered with a mask of humour and a smile.

Going would cause strain, discomfort and heaps of anxiety but the gain of the experience would outweigh that, but the potential pain caused by the collapse of the dream would be reasonably significant and there would be no gain, no compensation no alternative to offset it.

This post is not about going or getting there, it is not about me and how I cope, it is about at what point do you just have to learn to live with the fact that some dreams will come with a nightmare attached. To avoid the nightmare let go of the dream.

I feel a “Violet Elizabeth” type tantrum in the air ………

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Eyes to the Right!

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Last Wednesday [yes, the day before the world went pouty mad] Big Sis, BIL and I got up early and headed to the train station, our destination, the big smoke, Londinium, the capitol … this years escapades involved a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament and a river cruise, plus dining at our now favourite place The Drift at Heron Tower.

We arrived without hitch or hold up and taxied to the Lord Entrance, past the growing floral tributes to the Late Jo Cox MP laid out on Parliament Square.  Through the ‘airport style security’ and into the hallowed grounds.  We had planned a light luncheon in the Jubilee Cafe and to get the bargain priced guide book from the shop (£5, thoroughly recommend) before perusing Westminster Hall in readiness for the tour to begin.

If you ever get the chance, grab it, I organised my tour through my MP’s office which meant it was free, but even at the ticket price of £25.50 is better value than some venues.  Our guide Phillip made the walk around engaging, enthralling and amusing, bringing in all his tourees to be seen as a person of history – I was a new MP experiencing first State Opening and no hope of heck getting into House of Lords to hear the Queens Speech and how I go about getting myself seen and heard [you have to put your prayer card in the holder at the seat you choose on the benches before morning prayers], the significance of ornament .  You learn of the assassination of Spencer Pervecal in 1815 at the hand of John Bellingham … which bits are victorian fake gold and which bits are stolen, well purloined, Welsh Gold …. the blue carpet and why the royals only tread in specific areas … the significance in the position of the Mace … how to become  Lord/Lady and sit at cross benches … anecdotes such as Henry VIII aged 9 rode his horse into Westminster Hall; the place where Thomas Moore [Man For All Seasons] was tried, where Charles I was tried by Cromwell … how the Palace was re-jiggered following the bombing in WWII that struck the Commons …. when it became a permanent home to Parliament [prior to this it followed the Monarch on progress or from Palace to Palace] … the politics of position and the Parliamentary Post Office …. we saw copies of Hansards and how it is produced … the Parliamentary voting system and how it is more foolproof than any paper or electronic system.

It had not clocked with me that as Parliament was in recess for the continued referendum campaigning, that we would be able to go into the Commons and Lords, bonus for us! After 90 minutes and utter entertainment, we wanted to go round again. I imagine you could do so with different guides and discover something different each time.

We sauntered across Westminster Bridge and to the London Eye, the embarkation point for our 40-minute trip and were boarded quickly. The ropes let go and the engines revved we sailed down to Tower Bridge, our commentator trying his hardest to name and fact various bridges and buildings.  It was over all too quickly, and we taxied back to Heron Tower for some super fabulous gorgeous tasty food {I have been lusting for their scotch egg on piccalilli since last year!

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scotch egg with black pudding on piccalilli

Home and a bed by 11pm ….. 17 hours after leaving it, educated, entertained and exhausted.

Now to read the guide boo to remember all the things I forgot to mention here!

 

p.s.  Big Sis searched, she looked, she scrutinised but she didn’t find an upside down Union Flag *phew* LOL

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in General, In The News, Life, people

 

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Planning the plans to plan the thing

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It sounds easy – hop a train to the big smoke, take a tour around an ancient building, wander across the bridge and take a scenic river cruise before getting to the favoured eatery for dinner and hop the train back home – simples, right?!?  Well sort of usually yes until you add the obstacle of a wheelchair.

We are not going until sometime towards the end of June, but you have to sort these things early.  First I contact the Houses of Parliament [via my MP’s secretary] to ask when there are places on the tours across a number of dates, that can take a wheelchair person.  Of course the reply is “when do you want to come”; well you see it depends on whether the ONE wheelchair space is available on each of the FOUR train journeys, once I have the dates the HofP Tour can happen, I can see what train seats are available and confirm a date and time.  Pencils don’t exist in an electronic world … the HofP couldn’t pencil me across two or three dates that I could confirm within 24 hours, so it was a case of keeping everything crossed, would it be too tempting for Lord Sod and Mischievous Murphy to tinker and f-udge up best laid plans.

Then I called the Train People – I need one wheelchair and 2 others on these trains, on these dates, at these times, pretty please thank you much ….. poor chap, I think there was steam coming from his various screens and keyboards and he went through trying to book the people ticket and the assisted travel service and each time there was one that would not comply.   [what you thought the wheelchair booking system was linked to the ticket booking system? You mad mad mad fool!! Of course not, what idiot would do something like that].  Eventually as the tour available dates were being crossed out one by one, there was one that fit ….. BOOK IT, NOW!!

Wing confirmation email to HofP for specific date, specific timed tour, for definite, in proper pen – we are coming!! Thankfully the spaces were still available [often they are booked more than six months in advance – I know, who knew, not their web site].

Next the London Eye River Cruise booking …. copious amounts of reading online as to their preferred procedure.  Of course they don’t answer the important questions, so I wing an email to them and the reply answers one of the three questions but not the other two, so return email with two questions and one more is answered. *sigh*  Right, sort of sorted, book tickets online, then after paying the non-refundable ticket price, telephone their customer service centre and book the wheelchair space. Err, hello, I don’t want to buy a ticket and then hope the wheelchair space is available, I want to make sure it is available then book and then confirm.  Am I the only one who sees this issue?  After eventually finding the river cruise times and they eventually confirming that the time is not the boarding time but heading off time so be there 30 minutes earlier to get the necessary things done at the ticket office [they don’t mention that on the web site – every trip must leave late as it never says boarding 10 minutes before time – again am I the only one who sees the problem?].  I managed to get an email saying that the wheelchair space was currently available on these times, and so I went ahead and booked our tickets and emailed back with my order number and confirmation of needing that wheelchair space.  Email reply – we cannot take bookings via email please call our customer service line at 15p per minute.

*desk-head-bang*

I telephone them, an automated please press 1-2-3 goes through all the Eye options and never mentions anything about the river cruises – of course there is no option to “press to speak to a human because we forgot reasons people may be calling us at vastly inflated prices” …. I pressed a key and waited, waited, waited, spoke to a person and I explained river cruise, this date, this time, wheelchair space please …. of course the option I chose was the wrong one I needed the “make a booking” line not the “alter existing booking” line *rolleyes*.  I waited as I was transferred, waited and waited, then finally a human spoke and I repeated my request and got the obligatory “please hold while I see to that for you” which is code for ‘crap we did this in training I think now where are my notes, [nudge person next to you] do you know how to book in wheelchairs, etc etc etc’.

Anyway, wheelchair space booked, the confirmation email never arrived as I am not sure the person spelt my email address correctly [which is already on my existing booking, which she could not access because she only does new bookings, but existing bookings cannot book wheelchair spaces] which I spelt out three times.

Hey ho! We will see if the day rides smoothly or not .. it better!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in General, Life

 

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12-night sleep over

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I am just about getting back to my usual routine after the visit with my BFF.  How quickly we fall into our ways together, turning my hovel into a grown-up slumber party.  It is such a change and welcome return to something so comfortable.

We watched loads of good stuff, documentaries, serials and films, like …..

  • Coal House [1927]
  • Coal House at War
  • The Edwardian House
  • Downton Abbey [almost to the end of series 3]
  • O Brother, where art thou?
  • Nell
  • Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
  • Churchill’s Secret
  • Philomena
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I am sure I have forgotten some.

We eat good food that we cook ourselves, which makes a welcome break from my usual stews [which I am already bored of].  BFF was finishing a ripple afghan in silver birch, I become the wool unwinder so she can crochet at blurring speed [skip2-11-3in1-repeat; I’m nearly reciting that in my sleep!].  I was starting a new project [blog to come] and wanted her guru teacher mind to help me get started.

We talk, laugh, watch youtube stuff, discuss politics, newsy stuff, talk cats and their antics.

All too soon there are discussions about flight times and pick up times, and things working their way back into a suitcase.  She’s coming back in 165 days, not that I am counting down.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in General, people, Projects

 

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The Capital Capitulated

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I didn’t stop traffic this time, well I did but it was at the alloted crossing and when the button has been pressed and the green man was telling me it was safe to go. [Tales of that story can be found “I Stop Traffic”]  We did have a fun fab time, despite the last minute panics and frustrations.

Departingfrom a chilly station at 7.32am was a shock to my lazed system, we were met by the handy chap with the wheelchair ramp and put on the London train [first class, standard prices, that is were the disabled seats are].  Arrived about 5 minutes late, grabbed our lunchy buns and discovered that lift one was out of action, asked a policeman where lift two was hiding [round the corner where he was standing, typical] – ramped into the taxi and “Westminster Abbey please mate” – there is always something rather cosmo/metro-politan about jumping in a London Hackney and saying where you want to go :D. 

He dropped us off by the West Door and after doing the typical mouth agog, eyes wide tourist thing as this vision from the television is right there before your eyes, we processed our way to the North Door.  Jumping the que [sorry folks, they just opened the barrier and let me through]. Inside we were given our complimentary audio tour devices read by the smooth voiced Jeremy Irons. Beautiful building, and standing at the icon toomb of the unknown soldier was quite tinglng. So any notable names and decoration and so many strangers, makes you wonder why they were allowed to be commemorated/buried there [enough money I suppose].  After leaving the Abbey we took a look around Parliament Square and at the statues, Mandella, Ghandi, Churchill efore crossing the bridge to the Eye.
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We sat and ate our lunch watching the world go by and the Eye go round.  We then went to the SeaLife Aquarium.  It is a lovely place to visit, to many enormous tanks with larger specimens in them, the turtles were huge and the sharks are always a draw.  The penguins were fun, they were playing follow the finger through the glass, so bird like when you see them up close.  We treated ourselvs to the book that includes four photos taken of you against the green screen.  I have the keyring and magnet and my Sister has the book for the four-foot ninja to look at.  We taxi-d back to Heron Tower where I had booked a table at The Drift which served fab food before getting back to the train for the 7.30pm return train.  Fell into bed just after 10.50pm, ready to be still and quiet.

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ext years trip is already being planned – visit the Houses of Parliament [assuming it is still standing], then across the river for a guided cruise and a whizz around the Eye.

😀

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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