In the travelogue subplot of my life, the oddest moments stand out. The oddity comes with my physical condition, I suppose. So what I remember of this latest trip to the UK is standing up in a United Airlines toilet and feeling the general difficulty of maneuvering in such a tight space. The stiffness that has taken over my body may reflect age, but as far as I’m concerned, something terrible has gone wrong. Things shouldn’t be this way. I mean it was only yesterday that I would swing myself into an aircraft lavatory with mixed relief and agile delight. Now the whole thing…having a flight attendant haul me up on my feet, hanging on for orthopedic life while I maneuver myself into the John…well, something in me can’t quite believe this is happening. While there is enough perspective and sanity left in my psyche to acknowledge the obvious. I now have enough control of my life to be seated right next to the toilet. Help is at hand. And at 70 years of quadriplegic age, one must be thankful. I am still mobile.
So what else stands out? Well, of course, Gloucestershire mornings of rising from my country bed. This fear has dogged me for the last couple of years, the notion that I just can’t get myself out of bed. The core muscle strength, vis-à-vis abdominals, seems lacking. Forget that it has actually proved lacking only a couple of times. For as far as I’m concerned, a couple of times is quite enough, thank you very much. Jane couldn’t travel with me this trip, so there I was on my own, waking up each morning in my cousin’s downstairs bedroom…wondering if I could do it, that is to say, scoot my torso around to the edge of the bed, raise one leg (the only functional leg, that is) grab it, and sit. And there I was, morning after morning, sitting. Upright as could be. Ready to emerge in the English country morning.
And again one must be grateful. My cousin Caroline says she insisted on this downstairs accessible room, complete with wheelchair-friendly shower, because of me. And her husband Alastair insisted on making it happen the right way. A series of happy accidents amplified the accessibility, particularly in the flooring. At my osteoporotic age, slipping is a particularly bad idea. But who is going to slip on a sandstone floor? And why is there sandstone flooring? Because this is a restored farm building from 1750 or thereabouts. The local Council has its standards for historical preservation. Thus Alastair’s floors are history, but I’m not. Let us be thankful.
Of course, there is more. Unfortunately, there is no more of me for this particular day. Jet lag is taking its toll. Never mind. Stay tuned for the highlights. Not the least of which features the Philharmonia Orchestra of London playing in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre…built by Christopher Wren in 1688…with only a few hundred seats. More on this.