Bournemouth: A Challenging Experience

1-bournemouth-beach-10The Spinster simply abhors things that make her FEEL disabled; of course I am disabled writ large but when things out of my control in effect announce it on a bloody tannoy this is not to ones liking! I’ve mentioned before the amusing incident at the entrance to the Welsh Government building when, having explained about the stimulator (spinal cord), the security guard shouted to his colleague ‘woman with implanted device coming through’- he was of course factually accurate but perhaps he hadn’t been on the diversity awareness course or the bit about treating people with respect hadn’t sunk in. There was not harm done on this occasion and maybe I shouldn’t have wryly (I thought) commented that if it all went pear shaped at least he could go and work at the airport! Of course I would never down play the security risk faced by our elected members; after all they do take decisions of great importance to my life beyond sustainability and the 5p charge for carrier bags!

Last week however was quite different and what happened did more than ruin my day; the whole weekend could have been relentlessly awful had another person come up trumps and rescued me. I was in Bournemouth for a friend’s 50th birthday, she is small in stature and looks a long way off her half century; her rather younger partner however had a Bakewell tart iced with ‘Happy Half Century’! Boys, love ‘em hate ‘em but in her case can’t do without ‘em.

crabs530As I was unable to take up the offer of a camp bed at said friend’s house I had checked into a B&B. (As an aside can you imagine me trying to get into and out of a camp bed – the image is one of a crab performing some bizarre kind of mating ritual add in my poor special awareness and the room would have resembled a post hurricane situation. Such damage would probably not be covered under the ‘accidental damage’ clause of one’s house insurance!).

When I booked the B&B, (that had been recommended by a colleague of said friend), I explained I would need assistance with my bags as I walked with crutches; I knew the establishment had no ground floor rooms and was prepared for stairs to the first floor. Not ideal but it was Bank Holiday weekend and currently my resources are limited. The more pricey hotels resembled those on Llandudno seafront patronised by coach parties of (usually) older persons. Whilst this population must provide a reliable income for hotel proprietors the offer is not quite to my liking even if they would definitely have a working lift!

When I arrived at the B&B there was parking available at the front door as promised; a good start I thought as the definition of ‘close to’ is in my experience a moveable feast. How many times have you arrived somewhere on the basis that something was ‘within walking distance’ to find yourself wondering who exactly was supposed to be doing the walking? An Olympic athlete or someone adept at Nordic Power Walking? The woman proprietor greeted me with a somewhat concerned look. ‘I’m worried about how you’ll manage the stairs to the SECOND floor’ she said. ‘I’m afraid I haven’t got another room’. What do you do in these circumstances; the answer is grin and bear it. You don’t do what a disabled spinster tired after a 3 ½ hour drive felt like doing and burst into floods of emotional tears; oh no you adopt a steely stare, draw oneself to ones full 6Ft (in those boots) and say ‘let’s go then’ (whilst glaring down to the smaller proprietor). By now I wanted her to stop saying ‘I’m so sorry’ because her words were utterly meaningless in the circumstances. And yes she was actually wringing her hands as she apologised!

Accompanied by her teenage son, who came after being called three times (as we waited she shrugged her shoulders, avoided eye contact and stared at the door from which he eventually appeared). He took my bags and she took one of my crutches having asked how she could help. To be honest the woman looked absolutely terrified as she practically walked backwards up the steep stairs in front of me! I wonder if she’d begun to imagine how I’d get out in the case of a fire; the answer is probably not unscathed unless the fire was upstairs and I was escaping (slowly) down the stairs! But oops the room is upstairs so the Spinster would be buggered; but hey this is taking the scenario too far as it didn’t happen (but it might have…)

By the time we got the room my legs were killing me, the spasticity (rigidity in my muscles) was at its zenith and the hideous internal sand shaking sensation was back with avengence. Oh and my mood was not exactly improved all I wanted was to be left alone to do some deep breathing! If I tried to smile I fear my face would have cracked as I have lately lost sensation there too (kiss my right cheek not the left if you want me to feel the love!) When asked if I’d like a coffee I just nodded and squeaked ‘yes please’.

Installed in the room I looked around and just as the eyes began to well up uninvited there was a knock at the door; the husband with the coffee. And what he said next floored me because it was utterly unbelievable. ‘I’m sorry you see last week we got a phone call from someone who’d booked with the previous owners and said they needed a first floor room. And I changed you without looking. You see my wife had dealt with your booking and I didn’t know about your requirements.’ What precisely was I expected to say! I didn’t say anything whilst he rambled as it didn’t hit me until he’d gone; it wasn’t my not communicating my needs – I always wonder if I should have confirm them by phone rather than relying on email. But no it was their fault, he’d just admitted it!

After he’d left and I’d paced a bit as I needed a cigarette but that would mean climbing down the four flights of steep stairs and back up again. How do you punish people in these circumstances? All I could think was to brush my teeth and leave the tap running but that only punishes the environment. When I went into the bathroom it got so much better; the room was in a gable annex with a sloping ceiling which meant I banged my head every time I used the loo! AND there was no shower as such; no it was a shower attachment on the bath! I realised there was no way I was going to be able to use the bath without handles or anything to hold onto.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse I tried to phone my friend to say I’d arrived to find the signal was so weak we couldn’t hear each other! All we managed was a text conversation where she agreed to come and pick me up. The wifi ditto, technically available but, no real signal in the attic rooms of which there were four; this I know because aside from the doors I heard them coming and going.

Next morning I didn’t attempt breakfast for two reasons: it was between 8 and 9 and this was a Saturday and because one of the worse things for setting my symptoms off is climbing stairs (it’s the repetitious movement that aggravates the nerves to the point they protest by setting off the pain. And as the MS has bedded in I have lost the ability to forget by which I mean when the sources of the aggravation stops it takes a while before my body registers; physiologically there is a longer lasting echo sensation. Oh and it almost slipped my mind (not) that I’d heard the tell tale sounds of small people; very small people the age of which one needs warning to interact with(and all ones senses awake by which I mean alert)!

Irritatingly next morning I found out, having agreed with the owner that I would pack my bags leaving them ready for collection before descending, that breakfast was served rather later than 9 am! Hmm the guest information had apparently been adopted without amendment by the new owners. I did get something knocked off the bill which paid for extra night I had negotiated in the Chalet another friend and I had rented for the rest of the week. But this hardly made up for the discomfort of climbing four flights of stairs – at least twice each of the three days I was there – or the unwelcome tricky sponge bath I had to perform in the absence of being able to use the shower (this is not the 1950s)!

The actual birthday party was on the beach in a beach hut owned by a friend of the friend whose birthday it was; this I hadn’t registered and had I realised I would not have decided this was time to take my full length linen coat for its first outing of the season! Curiously I didn’t wear it plumping reluctantly for my ancient leather jacket which I had randomly (and fortuitously) decided to take. The great thing is that there is a lift in Bournemouth down to the beach although I do think it should be free for disabled patrons as it is run by the Council. I descended with a elderly lady who told me it was £15 for the season (only £10 last year) but good value if you used it several times a day which she did. When I enquired of someone local at the party why it wasn’t free for older/disabled people she laughed and said then no one would pay given the significant retired population in Bournemouth!

Sadly the lift stops at 545 pm and I decided (after four hours outside sitting on a canvas chair then concrete step) to leave it was 620 pm. A visiting friend accompanied me up the zigzag path up the cliff to the top; we paused to rest half way up as it took just shy of 50 minutes to complete the ascent! Yes I really do walk that slowly..

The Chalet in Eype near Bridport is managed by company hence when I contacted them with my plight they were able to accommodate my request. When paying for the extra night the woman dealing with the booking said ‘I just don’t understand how that could happen’; no lady neither do I!

The only question is whether to leave a few factual sentences on Trip Advisor? Or is the fact that local people at the party, especially the one who had recommend the establishment to my friend, heard about my experience? Even taking into account the B&B had only been managed by this couple since January it need not have happened with better communication and a more robust booking system. However there are only (about) 8 rooms and there are only two people booking and only two/three ways to book (telephone, email or letter) so how difficult can it be? There parting shot was that they need to review the way they take bookings and that this was the first time there had been a problem – and that it had to happen to someone that it really mattered to (excuse my French ‘no shit Sherlock’!)

2013-05-07 12.54.32 As an aside when I had left the B&B and was on my way to Eype via birthday girl’s house I had a phone call – I missed it and the following message was left ‘ Hi its the B&B. When I was cleaning the room I found what looks like a rabbit’s foot lucky charm, it looks important so would you like to pick it up or shall I post it?’ I knew immediately what it was – the brooch made from the naturally felt matt of my late feline companion’s fur. I immediately went to collect it of course! I said thankyou and would she like to know what it was? She was intrigued and reassuringly receptive to my explanation! She is a genuinely nice person doing her best…but the poor communication sure did ruin the birthday party for me…

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