Thursday, May 14, 2015



Let's see, where was I?  Leaving the New Forest for the trip to Cheltenham...  A nearly three-hour journey, non-stop, avoiding motorways.  Our rental car has a navigation system which comes in very handy--especially for people with a tendency to get lost.  It only let us down in Cheltenham itself, a warren of one-way streets that's enough to fool even a satellite-controlled onboard computer.  A friendly local helped us out and we found our B&B, the Hanover House, without too much trouble.  Our hosts, Veronica and James, gave us a warm welcome, helped us with our bags, and provided us with a map for the walk to the hospital.

English hospitals, we discovered, are still pretty strict about visiting hours.  We arrived just in time for the 3 - 4:30 session and made our way through corridors and stairways to the ward where my sister, Flora, is in recovery from major surgery a few days ago.  We found her in remarkably good spirits...

... though tiring easily, the hour or so we spent with her was about as much as she could manage.  News of her illness was a great shock, since she has always been a marvelously healthy person, eating well and exercising conscientiously for many years.  We all seem to grow more vulnerable with increasing years.

We got lost--of course--on the way back to our B&B from the hospital, and saw more of downtown Cheltenham than we had intended.  Much of the area has been converted for pedestrian-only traffic,and the streets were teeming with shoppers like ourselves.  Flora's only request was for a lavender sachet, to counter the unavoidable hospital smells, and but our inquiries met with little success.  Ellie opted for a tube of lavender cream instead.

Arriving back at the B&B...

... we had only a few moments to meet our fellow-boarders--six Aussie cyclists here for a tour of the Cotswolds.  Flora's daughter, Charlotte, arrived shortly with her son, Hugo, and we left on foot to find a place for dinner--a Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant in the downtown area.  Nice to find a small, quiet room for ourselves; and nicer still to reconnect with family we had not seen for a number of years.  Hugo, just turned eighteen, is off with chums on an ambitious world tour in a few weeks, testing himself out with experience before knowing what to opt for in terms of further education.


A second day in Harpenden, for a second visit with my sister.  We enjoyed a hearty breakfast with our Aussie mates, then left for the Montpellier area, Cheltenham's upscale shopping district--where we did manage to find that lavender sachet, along with a number of other items and gifts to take back home with us.  With time to spare, we chose to visit the local art museum, which has a wonderful small collection of Arts and Crafts gems in its permanent collection, but where the other exhibition galleries were closed for installation.  Of special note: an interesting small gallery devoted to a historical exhibition about Edward Wilson, who died on the Scott Antarctic expedition.

A disappointing ploughman's lunch--better to get this at a good pub--we headed back to the hospital and spent a good couple of hours with Flora, with a walk out to a sunny balcony where she could it in a wheelchair and enjoy the open air...

We were having such a good time that we exceeded official visiting hours without tiring her unduly.  A very sad farewell.  We left with the insistence that this would not be a goodbye but, in the old childhood formulation, a TTFN (Ta-ta for now).  Glad to see that Flora was making good friends and talking of sharing TV privileges with her ward neighbor as we left.

We stopped on the way back to our B&B for a drink at a bar and, later, dinner at an Indian restaurant, which Ellie kindly allied me--being not too keen on Indian food herself.  Back in our room, we finished off our packing to be ready for an early start for London in the morning.

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