*The scene… It is 1928 and Lord Sidney Bragg has just returned from his successful, but bloody expedition to Africa. Leading a hunt, he set out to prove that man can capture a wild lion by the use of bare hands alone. Now a celebrity, and trying to throw off accusations of employee bullying, Sidney has returned to Blighty. Having read of Lord Sidney’s exploits, Lord Stuck in the Past has invited Bragg to his remote castle hoping he can find a suitor for his two remaining daughters. Having lost his younger daughter, Lady Leg Over, to the man who changed the oil in the lawnmower, he is desperately trying to find a match for Lady Holier than Thou And Lady Mousey.
As the sole survivor from 50 men on the expedition, Sidney enthralls the Ladies with his exploits. At an appropriate break, Lord Sidney asks where the loos are, and makes a subtle exit. Under the ruse of needing a pee, he nips up the back stairs to Lady Holier than Thou’s bedroom for a rifle through her knicker and corset drawer. Unfortunately, he is caught in the act by a distressed Lady Mousey, who runs off to her father screaming. Lord Sidney escapes only to stumble at high speed at the top of the red staircase….
I awake, and here I am, onein400, at the top of the stairs in Highclere castle, better known to the world as the set of Downton Abbey. How did I get here?
On Sunday we took a trip to the castle, and of course some minor disabled planning was required. It went very smoothly, with the blue badge gaining me “park where I ****** like” rights. An easy walk, with my walking stick, to the gardens, and as the weather was beautiful we spent some time exploring what can only be described as wonderful grounds. The castle is incredible. Steeped in history, Lord Carnavon in 1922 was the chief financier behind Howard Carter, the famous Tutankhamun archaeologist. True British history! Throughout the day we were proud to be British, none of that European stuff! Before venturing into the castle I had nice lunch comprised of Thai chicken wrap and Cafe Latte.
Then began our tour of the castle. There are three floors that can be explored, of which two could be walked without stairs, but the bedrooms needed a stair climb. The lovely guides noticed my rather interesting walking style, and asked me could I manage stairs, and if not they would show me some photographs of the rooms. I told them we would give it a go! I think I have mentioned before, going up stairs is good, but coming down can be challenging. We followed the crowd. I say crowd, but this was a rather nice bunch, you know Waitrose types, so I wasn’t that nervous. For my American readers Waitrose is like Whole Foods Market and for my South African family and friends Woolworths. Fascinating questions and talks, including secret cupboards of Egyptian artefacts amazed the shoppers. We then came to the ascending stairs. Soft carpet, good for a face fall, and nice hand rails either side. Success! I was there. We then set about exploring Lady Mary’s room amongst others. In the back of my mind was the looming return to the ground floor, my Ski black run!
After 30 minutes, the sweeping red staircase appeared. As it was, I was leader of a series of cripples, gripping the banister and slowly stepping down the wide staircase. Once at the bottom, relief, and I am sure I heard a director shout “Cut!”. My descent was hardly elegant. It must of looked like a scene from a disaster movie, where a chain of potential victims was being herded to safety. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t the slightly neurotic woman that typically is sent spiralling into oblivion, although I think she was behind me!
There was one further flight of stairs, but this was much easier, leading to the Egyptian Museum. Falling down these would have probably gone unnoticed as I would have appeared like an exhibit at the bottom of the stairs! At the end I observed I could have come “in through the out door” at ground level!
It’s well worth a visit, excellent guides and definitely as disable-friendly as a Victorian Castle can be.
Lord Carnavon died at a quite young age of 56, with a small shaving accident leading to septicaemia and eventual death. There have always been stories of the Mummy’s Curse for him and several other of the explorers. The reality was that it was in the days before antibiotics and other health improvements that surprisingly now make the 50 years of typical life expectancy of someone born in the early 1900s seem historic. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950s that in the USA, life expectancy started to climb. Now with MND/ALS largely striking in what we now call the prime of life, early 50s, it’s no surprise that we only saw this disease appear more in the last 50 years. It also casts the myths of “traditional” healing, advocated by non-scientists, out the door! Its my pet subject readers. Non medicinal cures and their advocates! What is largely now accepted with MND/ALS is that there is a high genetic burden which becomes activated. More on this in my research update coming soon.
Before we left the castle, we bought some high class tat, including a mug for Lord Bragg.
On Tuesday, my powered wheelchair arrived. This was a difficult visit, as I don’t need it yet, but forward planning is important. I have mentioned this before, but I am right at the belligerent end of the spectrum of patients. However, avoiding a crisis is important. I was advised by the MNDA to do this and they are correct. You are all familiar with powered wheelchairs, like the one Stephen Hawking uses. Interestingly enough, the last item I was given by Nikki, my marvellous disability centre consultant, was a pair of “reset” keys for the controller! Oh the joy of computers! Apparently the control pad can lock up and if it does I must wave this little key next to the unit. Restart! I’ll remember this when it stops working in the outside lane of the M1!
Wednesday was my trip to the Dentist. It was a success. Success is now measured when I don’t bite the fingers of the hygienist off!
I had a great cycle on my trike Saturday, a good 11 miles. Got hail stoned on though, and decided to leave the road at a farm shop. We searched for cover, and somehow ended up in an abandoned old garage. I had to limp out of my trike, and got a quick cramp in my right leg. It must of looked odd to passers-by, as I staggered and crawled into the garage. It had all the makings of a “Cabin Fever” type movie, where we are lured into the back to find freezers of dead bodies. Fortunately, the weather cleared up within 15 minutes, and we went on our way.
Time to go, dinner is ready. In no way has our trip to Highclere altered our midweek dining formalities……
*any resemblance to the Series Downton Abbey is entirely deliberate.
Same place, same time next week readers. Unless of course this heatwave continues in the upward direction, when the end of world occurs at about Wednesday 2:23pm.