Thursday, June 30, 2011

Boldly to Go

My husband has been watching a lot of Star Trek: Enterprise reruns lately, and one of them today had a scene in which the Enterprise crew was for some reason ordering from a drive-through restaurant on what seemed to be modern day Earth. It brought to mind episodes of the original Star Trek and Star Trek, the Next Generation in  which characters somehow time travelled back to 20th century Earth. Thinking about this, I realized that in all these episodes, the characters were able to speak 20th century American English. There didn't seem to have been any change of accent, idiom, or grammar in the intervening three or so centuries that would have caused the problems in communication you might have if, say, an early 18th century speaker turned up on your doorstep one morning. It's not just that they could make themselves understood, as I'm sure our hypothetical 18th century time traveler could, but that they sounded like everyone else around them, except for one TNG episode in which our time travelers wound up in the Old West. One hundred years backward in time, big difference in language patterns, 300 years forward, no change. 

I brought this up to hubby. "Well, you can't have everyone on the show speaking some unknown language, " he said reasonably. "You have to do the show in English."

"I know that," I replied. "It's just odd that they never have a problem communicating in these time travel episodes."

What's even odder is that in three hundred years the world of the Enterprise crew doesn't seem to have developed any new idioms. Oh, true, they have jargon related to the craft itself, like "warp speed" and "dilithium crystals", but not any figures of speech that we don't use today. Even expressions that have become catch phrases for us, like "Beam me up, Scotty" and "Resistance is futile", are only used literally on the Enterprise. Consider how quickly something like "Resistance is futile" became a catch phrase for viewers of the show. Unless human nature changed drastically in 300 years, why wouldn't it have become a catch phrase for Star Fleet members and the wider society they were part of? 

Besides, I don't think today's English would turn completely unrecognizable in three hundred years, just that it would change. For one thing, it's possible that grammar would simplify even more, and that grammar forms like "she busy", "hisself" or "theirselfs" would become standard. Also, more foreign language words, particularly Spanish, could make their way into the language in 300 years time. Of course, back in the late 1960's when the original Star Trek made its debut, these trends may have been difficult to foresee. It's not surprising we didn't see episodes with dialog like the following:

Kirk:  ¡Hola, Spock. Have you seen Uhuru?
Spock: She busy, Captain. I can he'p you?

Okay, maybe that wouldn't work. I can understand the writers not wanting to tackle the problem of depicting linguistic changes when they were already trying to depict plausible changes in technology, social mores and fashion. I just wish they gave an occasional indication that such changes will occur.

Because they will.

(For those wondering about the title, in the mid-1900's, English teachers were strict about split infinitives.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Desserts

When I was a child, I was unusually thin, so much so that I was the subject of frequent teasing. When I reached my mid-teens, I gained enough weight to be slender rather than skinny, and by time I reached my mid-twenties, I was convinced I was overweight. I weighed 115 pounds at 5'3", but what body fat I did have concentrated in my abdomen, an omen of things to come.

Now I am obese. The term, at least in its medical sense, does not offend me. I weigh almost 40% more than the upper limits of the ideal weight range for my height. For someone with a family history of heart disease and a personal history of hiatal hernia, diverticulosis, high blood pressure, borderline high cholesterol, a balance disorder, and mild osteopenia, that amount of excess weight is risky.

I have another kind of family history, too. The pattern that I followed, slender childhood followed by extreme weight gain in adulthood, is standard for my family. Although my siblings weren't as skinny as I was, all but one were slender as children. Now the four of us who were slender/skinny children are battling overweight, while the one brother who was fat as a child is now of average weight, and has been for most of his adult life. 

Not only am I obese, but my body follows the dreaded apple shape, the one most disposed to problems like diabetes and heart disease. I look like a beer barrel with feet. My extremities, on the other hand, are still slender. If I had as little body fat on the rest of my body as I have on my arms and legs, I'd be hard put to pinch an inch anyplace. 

Of course, I have tried to lose weight in the past. No, I succeeded in losing weight in the past. I have lost enough, on separate occasions, to make myself a twin. I'm good at losing weight. I'm just not good at keeping it off. I'll stay at my goal weight for maybe 6 months, and then the pounds come back, bringing friends.

It's not that I follow fad diets where you eat 3 grapefruit skins and a handful of coffee grinds, either. The closest thing to a fad diet I followed was the South Beach Diet, and I'm not sure a diet consisting of lean meat, whole grains, vegetables, small amounts of fruit and dairy products, and unsaturated fats counts as a fad diet. I still eat lean meat, whole grains, vegetables, and unsaturated fats. The problem is, I eat cookies, ice cream, candy, fries, processed meats, and saturated fats as well. If you remove all the junk food from my diet, what is left is 6-9 servings of fruit and vegetables, more veggies than fruit, 1 or 2 servings of whole grains, 1-2 servings of low fat dairy products, and three servings of protein, frequently chicken or fish, on an average day. That's usually how I lose weight: cut out the junk, reduce portion sizes on what's left, and increase my activity level.

Then I start to miss cookies, ice cream, candy, processed meats, and saturated fats. I try to ease a few back into my diet, like 2 cookies a week, or maybe one small serving of ice cream. Pretty soon it's two cookies on top of the ice cream, with some caramel syrup on top of that. 

When Dr. S, my foot doctor told me I may have broken my foot, possibly while exercising, I discussed these concerns with him. I was exercising because I wanted to lose weight and strengthen my thinning bones. I had discussed the exercise program with my rheumatologist, who was all in favor of it. I told him I realized that the excess weight I am carrying put stress on my feet and exacerbated my other problems as well. 

I had to go back the next day for him to give me the results of my X-ray. That's when I found out that I had a fracture, in a bad spot, and needed to be off my feet for oh, maybe twelve weeks.  I asked if someone could call my husband in from the waiting room so he could hear the news, too. 

John, recalling my previous ankle fracture from 8 years ago, asked why I kept breaking bones. Dr. S summarized our conversation of the day before as "obesity and osteoporosis".

"I keep telling her she needs to lose weight," declares my loyal husband.

Really? Up until then, hubby had suggested I lose weight maybe twice. Most of what he says that is weight related goes like this:

"Do you want to go get donuts later on?"
"Do you want some ice cream?"
"I'm making cinnamon rolls. Do you want some?"
"I thought we'd go get Mexican (pizza, barbecue) for dinner."
"I bought you your favorite cookies."

Perhaps there is a version of the Rosetta Stone somewhere that translates all those statements from husbandese to "You need to lose weight" in English, but if so, no one has found it yet.

Whether there is or not, I need to lose weight. Not because my husband wants me to, not because I'd look better, not because of societal prejudice against fat ladies, but because I'd feel better at a lighter weight. My feet, knees and hips would hurt less, my stomach would burn less, and I'd be less likely to injure myself if my wonky balance makes me fall down. I could walk around the zoo, the park, and the arboretum and look at the wonders around me instead of looking for the next bench to sit on.

The problem I have is, that when making decisions about food and diet, it is so hard to separate health, appearance, and social acceptance as motivators. It's hard to agree that yes, I am a lovable, worthwhile person at my current weight while struggling to weigh less. It's hard to agree that prejudice against fat people is just as obnoxious as any other kind of prejudice while trying to turn myself into a thin person.  I feel like I'm letting the side down. 

I need to learn to look at food in a simpler, more logical way. Vegetables aren't a penance for sinning heavily in a previous life, they are plants with vitamins and minerals that I need to be healthy. Cookies, cakes, and ice cream aren't special rewards that I have proven myself unfit to deserve. They're just desserts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


"Arbitron has chosen you to take part in the Radio Ratings."

So said the package that arrived in the mail for us from Arbitron. In addition to two crisp, brand new dollar bills in the package, a reward for merely opening it (okay, how many of those are sitting in the trash?) I can earn a $10 gift certificate for keeping a diary of my radio listening for a week. What could be simpler? I can use $10.

The diary is kept on line, on their website. I need to record every instance of listening to the radio, whether I selected the station or merely happened to be in the room when my husband turned it on. I need to record the station, whether it's AM, FM, internet, satellite, or other, whether it's at home, in the car, at work or somewhere else, and when I started listening and when I stopped. This sounds easy enough, right?

Nothing is ever simple for me. My husband's alarm goes off at 6:30 every morning. Lately I have been awake by five, in the room next door, working on the computer. I can hear the radio, in the sense of the radio being on, but I can't really hear it, in the sense of knowing what is being played. Do I count that? When we drive around in the car, my husband will switch back and forth between the public radio station and the station owned by a local high school, which plays jazz all day long. Very often, I don't notice when he switches from the public station to the high school one. It's just as well I can't drive at the moment, because I do even more station switching than hubby does, and if I tried to keep notes about how many stations I switched to and when, I'd be a menace on the roads. 

Which brings up another point. The act of keeping track alters my listening habits. I'm more aware of listening to the radio as an activity and probably chose it more than I would have if I had never signed up to do this. At the moment I'm listening to Pandora online, which is something I haven't done in months. If I were driving somewhere, I'm sure I'd select one station and stick to it, or maybe just not listen at all, to make record keeping easier.

Due to hubby's listening habits and my frequent passenger status in his car, I'm recording a lot of time spent listening to the public radio station, which I don't even like. I think its slogan should be, "This is NPR - all boredom, all the time". So now I feel like I should go out of my way to listen to stations I like on my own time so that they will be represented in my listening diary.

I can't really think of a better system. Well, I can think of science fiction-y solutions like a tracking device implanted in your ear which will monitor the stations you listen to automatically, but I wouldn't prefer that. I've just run up against a concrete example of the oft-noted phenomenon that the very act of observing changes what is being observed.

I've also run up against several examples of how hard common behaviors can be to define. Am I listening to the radio if I have a vague awareness that  it is on? If I hear a few words spoken or a few notes played and then tune it out to the point I don't notice that the station has been changed? What percentage of what I hear has to be attended to before I can say that I am listening? 

The branch of logic that deals with questions like this is called "fuzzy logic". Crisp logic deals with phenomena that are binary: "A" precludes "not A" and vice versa. If I'm listening to the radio in the car, I am not at the same time listening to it in the house. If the station I am listening to is an AM station, it's not an FM station. Little of what we experience in life works that neatly. Most distinctions, like the one between "listening" and "not listening" are fuzzy.

"Fuzzy logic" is a misunderstood term.  It has been my experience that when the average person hears the term "fuzzy logic" they think "bad logic", not "good logic applied to fuzzy phenomena". 

 What's crucial to realize is that fuzzy logic is a logic OF fuzziness, not a logic which is ITSELF fuzzy. . . .[J]ust as the laws of probability are not random, so the laws of fuzziness are not vague.

Not being a logician, crisp or fuzzy, I have been left to make my own decisions about how to classify and record my listening habits, and they have sometimes been quite arbitrary. I hope I'm supplying good data in return for my $12. 

Good? Data?

I think I'll go listen to the radio.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Access Denied 3, the Home Version

I have a confession to make. My house is not all that accessible, either. I live in a 1970's Southern Colonial tract house with a narrow hallway, light switches set at my (standing) shoulder level, a combination of plush carpet and faux brick tiles for flooring, and furniture placement that was not chosen with wheelchair access in mind. The are no sinks I can roll up to or showers I can roll into, although there is a grab bar in the tub. There would be a shower I could roll into if I had had my way about it back when we remodeled the bathroom, in place of the tub that we do have. I wanted a big tile shower with a shower seat, since we never take baths anyway, but John thought the bathtub would be better for resale value, and since he purported not to understand why I thought the 1970's Harvest Gold bathroom needed a redo anyway, I deferred to him. 

The one good thing about our house for access purposes is that it is built on a slab and all one story, so there are no stairs.

So I have been making do with a combination of wheelchair use, brief bouts of walking, briefer bouts of standing, and my husband doing a lot for me. While it is hard rolling the chair on the carpet and the tile, it is not impossible, especially after those few months of biceps curls and floor and overhead presses. I can actually make myself tea and toast and get my yogurt from the refrigerator for breakfast. I was all set to fry myself an egg yesterday, with the small cast iron pan that lives in the middle drawer, when my husband came in and did it himself, with more than a few sighs and grimaces along the way. I am able to turn the light switches on and off with my walking stick, which I carry around with me in my chair for those times when I have to get out of it and walk to where I am going. I thought about smacking martyred hubby with said walking stick, but he meant well. I think.

Grooming is accomplished with what I call my "Hokey Pokey Bath": I straddle the side of the tub with my right foot in and my left foot out, although I'm not shaking anything all about.

The biggest problem I am having with access is not having my hands free while I wheel the chair anywhere. When I make breakfast, I get it to the table by moving it from the farthest point on the right to the farthest point on my left, moving the wheelchair until the object is again on my right, and keep repeating until I can finally reach the table. It takes a lot of time, but I have time. If I make a cup of tea, I drink it in the kitchen, or at least in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. To do laundry, I have to wheel the clothing to the laundry room in small bunches. Hubby said what I need is a cup holder on the chair. I need to look into that.

This all reminds me of the days after my foot surgery, when I had to get around on crutches until my doctor offered me the option of orders for a wheelchair. I needed to make a phone call while waiting for the wheelchair to be delivered, and wanted to take the phone into the living room. I decided to throw the phone on the sofa, then hobble over to it on my crutches. Unfortunately, I missed the sofa. Plan B was to nudge the phone over to the sofa with one of my crutches. As soon as Truffle saw me nudge the phone in one direction, he decided it was a great game and batted it in the other direction. The phone hockey game only ended when the referee smacked him with her crutch. I finally got the phone to the sofa, me to the sofa, and the wheelchair delivered.

I told my sister about the struggle with the cat and the phone. She told me some day I'd see the humor in it. I saw the humor in it while it was happening, I just needed the phone.

Maybe someday I'll see the humor in my broken foot struggles, too.

Truffle answering the phone for me when I had my foot surgery

Monday, June 20, 2011

Access Denied 2, the Ecclesiastical Version

We have a new pastor at St. Anonymous, and yesterday was her first day to preach. I wanted to go see her, and wanted to take the wheelchair, even though my husband thought I could walk in and out if he let me off at the door. I was not too sanguine about walking on the new floor in the vestibule, since it's a mix of two different kinds of tile and even slight changes in grade make me wobbly. Besides, my foot has been feeling swollen and the elevated footrest on the wheelchair seemed like a good idea.

I could understand my husband's hesitations, however, because St. Anonymous is not really wheelchair accessible. It does have the requisite number of handicapped parking spaces, and a ramp from the parking lot to the sidewalk. It does not have automatic doors. True, there were lots of willing churchgoers to hold the doors open for us, but as I tried and failed  to convince the board years ago, there is a difference between having to be helped and doing it yourself. It's not as if automatic doors are of use only to people in wheelchairs. People with their hands full of parcels, parents pushing strollers, people who just don't have the strength to handle heavy doors all benefit from them. Even with someone holding the door open, it was hard to get across the threshold. I had been wheeling myself along from the parking lot, but it took my husband backing me up and getting a good fast start to get me over the threshold, which was not designed with wheelchair access in mind.

There was also no place to situate my wheelchair once I got inside. I wound up parked in a side aisle, worried that I might trip latecomers hurrying into church. It's not as if we have fixed pews. We have upholstered chairs, and I could have asked an usher to move one or two out of the way to give me a place to park, but I shouldn't have had to. There should have been a space or two available already, or at the very least, an usher should have moved a chair without being asked, just like they put up extra folding chairs when they see people standing without being asked. Seating people properly is the usher's job.

But the biggest problem with respect to accessibility is that there is no way to get to the second floor without climbing stairs. For the most part this isn't a problem. There are no stairs leading to the first floors of any of the buildings, and only two buildings have second stories. The education building has an upstairs, used mostly for the preschool, and in the sanctuary building, the choir rehearses, and keeps its robes and music,  in a loft on the second floor.

It was back when the education building was built that I pointed out the lack of wheelchair accessibility to the second floor. I was told if anyone ever did show up in a wheelchair, some way would be found to get them upstairs. That was when I pointed out how demeaning it would be to have to be carried upstairs. The answer I got was along the lines of, "Well, yeah".

That was 20 years ago.

Recently the church has undergone a multimillion dollar renovation. Part of the renovation involved enclosing some outdoor space to make a bigger entry, so the front door is new, and could just as easily have been given an automatic door opener. The old kitchen was also torn out and the small prayer room moved, opening up space next to the stairs for a gathering spot. That would have been a good place to put a small elevator. Those things would have cost money, but maybe instead of the imported Italian tile on the vestibule floor we could have used vinyl tile from the Home Depot. It wouldn't have been as pretty, but it would have been a lot easier to roll over.

I know, I should have spoken up when the plans were first unveiled. My experience from 20 years ago notwithstanding, I should have said something. 

The funny thing is, St. Anonymous advertises itself as "the friendly, welcoming church". The people are friendly and welcoming. They're just thoughtless. Not everybody has my experience of having a wide range of acquaintances who get around on wheels. Not everyone has attended a workshop in which she tried out getting down the hall, into the ladies room and back out again in two varieties of wheelchairs, powered and not. Not everyone spends some portion of their every working day thinking about access issues. I've been remiss in not sharing more of my experience and concerns with the rest of the congregation. I did once bring a wheelchair to vacation Bible school, and I gave a children's sermon with the help of an augmentative communication device, but those efforts were few and far between. 

Another Methodist church downtown keeps wheelchairs of its own for worshippers who need them.

But think about that again, "the friendly, welcoming church". The onus needs to be on some of the people who dreamed up the slogan to think about what that entails. It should be possible for anyone who can propel his or her own wheelchair to be able to cross the parking lot, get in the door, and find a seat. It should be possible to get into the hall where the restrooms are and into the restroom without having to ask strangers for help. It should not be necessary for aides or family members who need to push a chair for those who can't to have to body block a door while pushing a wheelchair through. That's what accessibility means, not a parking spot, a ramp, and our best wishes.

I've been going to that church for 25 years, my wheelchair is only temporary,  and still I was upset by my experience. I can't imagine any chair-using first time visitor being in a hurry to come back. I think no matter what the friendly and welcoming members say to them, the building says, "We don't  care whether you're here or not". Somehow I don't think Jesus approves of this message.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Last of the Journey

The ferry from Ireland to Pembroke in Wales took four hours, but we found a nice sunny lounge at the stern and read for a good bit of the trip. From Pembroke we went to Cardiff. Most of our tour mates went to tour Cardiff Castle, but we ruled it out as being too expensive given how little of it I was likely to see. We did some sight seeing and had afternoon tea at Truffles Tea Room, which I could not resist since it has the same name as my cat, Truffle. The scones with clotted cream were an inducement, too.

Market in Cardiff

That night we had our farewell dinner at the hotel, and the next day we set off for London via Bath, Salisbury, and Stonehenge.

Houses in Bath

Roman Museum in Bath

Roman Museum in Bath

Salisbury cathdral
World's Oldest Working Clock

We were allowed to take pictures inside Salisbury Cathedral, unlike at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral. While at the cathedral, we also saw one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, but we were not allowed to take pictures of that. I also finally learned what a "cathedral close" is. 

Our last stop before London was Stonehenge. I was surprised not to be as impressed with it as I expected to be. I'm glad to have seen it, but I expected to have more of what Neal's high school history teacher called "that ooh ee ooh feeling" about it. Neal tells me that there are small group tours that can take you among the stones and that close up, when you can really see how huge they are, they are more impressive. I wasn't unimpressed, or even disappointed, just surprised.


When we got back to London, we had one more dinner with Neal (at a Persian restaurant) before our plane left the next day. 

As of my last trip to Dr. S, I got the happy news that my foot is healing. Apparently, despite all the stupid things I had been doing before I learned that it was broken (a certain ten block walk along the levee, in sandals, to take pictures of the flood waters comes to mind), it had been healing even before I got treatment for it. I now have a rental wheelchair at home, which is a good thing, because we have another trip planned, this time to hubby's sister's house. When he asked Dr. S if this trip would be okay, Dr. S asked, "Does she live on this continent?"

I decided to hold off on telling him about our plans to see Australia. After all, by that time, my foot should be back to normal.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Wheeling Through Ireland

We left early from Glasgow to catch the ferry to Ireland. Belfast was our first stop, although stop is a bit of a misnomer, because we pretty much just drove around town with a local guide pointing out the sights before heading on to Dublin. The ferry ride had taken three hours, so it was after lunch by time we arrived in Belfast. While there, we saw some Protestants parading in honor of William of Orange, whom they referred to as King Billy, according to our guide. That gives a whole new meaning to the expression of Friends of Bill, although the original one might just as easily apply. We drove around a largely Protestant neighborhood and a largely Catholic neighborhood to look at the graffiti, really large murals. I took a few pictures through the bus windows:

Bernadette Devlin

The Titanic was built in Belfast.

We also got to see the Beacon of Hope sculpture:

Beacon of Hope
Then on to Dublin. Once we were in the Republic of Ireland, the currency changed from pounds to euros. We weren't able to see as much as we wished in Dublin, because our good luck with the weather ran out and it started to rain. After a morning bus tour of the city to orient us, hubby and I went to the art museum, which was undergoing renovation so only part of the collection was open, and a museum of natural history, and had lunch in an interesting old restaurant.

Restaurant where we ate lunch

Flowers for sale on the street

St. Stephen's Green

Georgian houses reflected in new office building windows
Our second night in Dublin we went to a restaurant for a dinner and cabaret with Irish singing and dancing. Some of our group got called up to the stage to join the dancers, but they passed over me for some reason.

We left Dublin to go to Kildare to see the National Stud Farm, a name that makes me giggle. I'm an adolescent at heart. We had a beautiful day for it, and the farm was beautiful, too, with a Japanese Garden in addition to the horses.

Mares and Foals

He's a stud.
The Japanese Gardens were a treat because it was the first place I had been where sitting down was a real advantage in taking pictures. (Hubby said, "Speak for yourself." He really needs a vacation from his vacation.)

From Kildare we went to Waterford, our last stop in Ireland, and my favorite. It really is pretty, and we saw a large flock of swans on the Suir (pronounced "sewer"). We of course had a tour of the Waterford plant and an opportunity to shop in the gift shop. I looked for possible Christmas gifts, but I didn't see anything I thought my friends and relatives would really use. The plant had a platform lift to get visitors in wheelchairs up to the viewing platform to see the craftspeople at work, which I appreciated.

Cinderella's coach

Waterfront at Waterford
Swans on the Suir

The next day, we got up early again to catch the ferry to Wales. That will be my next episode.

Wheeling Around the British Isles


My son Neal has a job that keeps him on the run. Two years ago he spent four months in London, last year he spent almost the whole year in Paris, and this year he is back in London, working on a job in Amsterdam. Now that we are retired and at liberty to travel, my husband and I decided to visit Neal, and to make a tour of the surrounding areas. The only other time we have ever gone on a package tour was when we went to Antarctica, but a bus tour seemed like a good way to go, so we called a travel agent and booked a tour plus an airline flight that got us to England a week early, so we could have a long visit with Neal. 

Then I discovered I had broken my foot, some time before Easter. I had attributed the pain to something else, and put off seeing a doctor until a week before the trip. (Why I am allowed out without a keeper, I do not know.) He gave advice about renting a wheelchair and other logistics, and sent us on our way with his blessings. Dr. S is very fond of London. My hunch is that if I were planing to visit Bangkok, his advice would have been to stay home.

Our week in London with Neal allowed us to see not only him, for the first time since Christmas, but also our first foreign exchange student, who is from Thailand but currently studying in London. We also got to do a lot of the usual touristy sight-seeing: the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the British Museum, the National Gallery,  Harrod's. I wanted to spend money in Harrod's, but the only thing I saw that I liked was a Persian rug that would have looked perfect in our back room and cost £12,000, which I didn't have on me at the time. 
in Harrod's

We also got to taste English food. Up to now, I had always thought that people were joking when they talked about how bad English food is. I knew about the law banning more than five ice cubes from being produced in the whole country at any one time, but not about the one banning salt shakers from areas where food is prepared. They have them on tables; you would think some enterprising soul would smuggle one into the kitchen. Now I know why Indian food is so popular in England. We enjoyed two meals at Tayyab's, on Fieldgate Street, a place so popular that people were queuing up for table space by 5 in the afternoon.

After a week of hanging out with Neal, we joined up with our bus tour at a hotel across town.  The tour, called Britain and Ireland Highlights, was an 8 day trip up into Scotland, across to Ireland by ferry, then  to Wales by ferry, and back to London via Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge. Emphasis was more on breadth than depth, and a lot of our sightseeing consisted of looking out the bus window, but we hit the tourist hotspots: Anne Hathaway's cottage and William Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford upon Avon, York Minster, a cruise on Windermere in the Lake Country followed by a trip to Wordsworth's burial place, Edinburgh Castle, the Irish National Stud Farm, the Waterford Crystal factory, the Roman Museum in Bath, Salisbury Cathedral, and of course, Stonehenge for the big finish.

Our bus mates were quite friendly and of course, interested in my condition, which I tried to keep from being the focus of attention. All of us were from either the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (one person) or Singapore (one young couple) - places with connections to the UK. We did keep running across non-English speaking tour groups in our travels, so it wasn't lack of interest that kept citizens from other countries from exploring the British Isles. There were a few young people on board, such as the couple from Singapore and a few young women traveling together, but most of the group was like my husband and I, retired or about to be and with time and money to travel. 

Our trip did not get off to an auspicious start. Our first stop was Anne Hathaway's cottage, where a photographer was waiting to do a group portrait. We were told we would park the bus and walk around to the front of the cottage, a distance that did not look daunting from the bus, so I decided to walk. I realized my mistake a few steps down the hill. By then it was too late to get my wheelchair, because the picture had been taken. I spent most of the rest of the day composing the stern but polite letter I was going to write the tour company on my return about the total ineptness of their personnel in dealing with passengers with disabilities, but within a day or two our guide and bus driver figured out was I was going to need in the way of help, as shown by my experience at Edinburgh Castle. We now have a lovely picture of our fellow passengers; we're just not in it.

Anne Hathaway's cottage, seen from the side

The garden at Shakespeare's birthplace, where all the plants are ones mentioned in his plays

I also did not get to see York Minster up close, because the streets of York are cobblestoned, especially the Shambles, which we would to have had to backtrack to get to the Minster, and that would have left my wheelchair in shambles. We did get to see the smaller but quite delightful St. Martin's Church, and the Newgate Market.

Detail of church exterior

Inside the church

From York we went to Harrowgate to spend the night, and from Harrowgate to the Lake Country, where we opted to take the extra excursion that involved taking an old steam train to Windermere and a ferry across Windermere to catch up with the bus and go to Grasmere. We ended the day in Glasgow. Despite spending two nights in Glasgow, we didn't see much of it, because the next day we took a day trip to Edinburgh and stopped at a farm/inn on our way back to have dinner and entertainment. Diner was overcooked lamb, but the singing was good.

The Steam Train

Boats on Windermere

I think that's a tern.

Wordsworth's burial place

That's Gregor on the right, singing a Jacobite song
I think there is going to need to be a part 2 to this story, and possibly 3. At any rate, we left Glasgow early to catch the ferry to Ireland, and that's where we'll pick up in my next post.