Following on from my last blog, on our second day in Glasgow after I met Rosie from Enable Scotland and returned to Milngavie to prepare for Oban, I realised I had dropped an almighty clanger. I had prepared 2 weeks worth of medication in dosette boxes but had only travelled with 1 weeks worth, so at this point I would like to thank the wonderful people of the Kersland House Surgery in Milngavie for getting me out of that particular mess by issuing me with an emergency prescription with absolutely no fuss whatsoever.
Next day we travelled by train to Oban for a friends wedding. My wife had booked the tickets online and the route the website had given us seemed somewhat contrived. It was Milngavie to Westerton, Westerton to Dalmuir, Dalmuir to Oban. This is where the local knowledge of my in-laws came in useful. Westerton station had no lift that we were aware and a footbridge. No good for me. So with a bit of planning my mother in law offered to drive us to Dalmuir station and would pick us up from there on our return, thus taking Westerton out of the route completely. Brilliant (thanks Penny).
So we arrived at Dalmuir station, which also had a footbridge but had working lifts and looked pretty accessible for all disabilities that I could tell, although I was there to catch a train not do an audit. Anyway we were early for our train so I decided to have a look at the public amenities and make use of them if possible, a place is only as good as its accessible toilets. To my horror the station didn't have an accessible toilet, but it wasn't the equality issue I thought it was as they didn't have any public toilets at all!! I doff my cap to the people of Dalmuir that the station didn't smell the way I would expect a train station with no toilets to smell. I crossed my legs and prayed to the bladder Gods that I would be able to hold on until our train came.
We passed the time by checking our itinerary. We noted with interest beside the notes of the train we were about to catch 'no reservation necessary'. When the train pulled in we boarded with the luggage and our little un in the buggy to see an extremely busy train... many seats with reservation tickets on them. I was not happy. I hate having to rely on the goodwill of strangers, however we were not short of offers of assistance from the good people of Scotland (thank you good people of Scotland), and we were seated. Then I gave thanks to the bladder Gods when I found a vacant toilet.
Although the journey had started badly as we felt we had been mislead, I have to say the journey continued with about 3 hours of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever come across. The further north we went the more beautiful it seemed to become. If we weren't so crowded on the train I would have taken a picture but I couldn't reach my camera. Sadly my 23 month old wasn't interested in the scenery and instead concentrated on angling herself in the cramped conditions so she could colour in Peppa Pig in her book.
On arrival in Oban, the taxi we had pre-arranged was waiting there for us, which was a blessing. Once we were settled in we were treated to another 30 minutes of breathtaking scenery. Although I did notice that there was a lack of amenities.
We arrived at The Loch Melfort Hotel (home for the next 3 days and the venue of our friends wedding). I noticed 2 steps up into the front entrance. We weren't impressed as we had told them when we made the booking that we were both disabled and had a toddler with us and no mention was made of this. We struggled in and went to the reception desk. This is where we were told our room was upstairs and there was no lift .... erm 2 disabled guests with a toddler!!!
A young member of staff helped us upstairs with our luggage and the buggy, but I wasn't impressed, you can have all the stunning scenery you like but when we tell you we're disabled you should take this into consideration. Its all very well helping us upstairs, but how the hell do we get out once we're here??
Once in the room, which was quite pleasant without being outstanding, we were treated to a smashing view of the coast and the grounds. We began to read the hotel information in the binder they had put in the room.
The hotel is very proud of it's restaurant which has 2 AA rosettes and my wife asked me if they were like Michelin stars. I was in a bit of a mood so said I didn't care, her little Peugeot had 4 Michelin tyres but it didn't make it a Ferrari. She read out the dinner dress code ...'no blue jeans'. I looked at what had been packed clothes wise and wondered if they would mind me wearing my blue jeans if they knew the alternative was eating in my boxers. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind places trying to maintain standards but if they told you about this before you arrived you can prepare. Anyway by luck, as well as my suit trousers (for the wedding), I had a pair of black jeans: they would have to do.
I was still in a mood so my wife took our daughter out to find her something to eat, it was almost her bedtime (my daughter not my wife). I lay on the bed to see what was on TV, all 4 channels of it....oh dear...no Channel 5 which meant no Milkshake! which meant no Peppa Pig, nor did we have Cbeebies, which meant no In The Night Garden and no Timmy Time. My mood didn't improve.
I must have fallen asleep as I was awoken by wife and daughter coming back into the room. The staff at the bistro had made my daughter a sandwich, even though they weren't officially open. My mood improved at that news, maybe this wasn't going to be so bad. I went into the bathroom and noticed we had a bidet, then realised what I thought was a bidet was actually our bath. Well that brought me down again, I was never going to get in there, no shower either... oh well it would have to 'gentlemens washes', just like it was in the days immediately after my stroke. We continued to make the best of it, although I was still holding a grudge, however everything was made worse when my wife hurt her back climbing the stairs with our daughter. This is what happens when hotels don't properly take into account the needs of disabled guests, and of course there was no nearby chemist to get painkillers.
We had a chat about things and decided this was costing us a fortune so we decided to make the best of it, and besides, it was for our friends wedding.
When we went down for our evening meal (trying not to damage the expensive looking portraits on the staircase as I hobbled down), we were caught out by the procedure they had, which was go into the lounge half an hour before eating and choose your menu then you will be led through to the dining room. This might be normal in such establishments, I don't usually move in these circles but the formality of it all was enough to put me off my foi grois.
Anyway I'll not bore you any more, needless to say things didn't improve, but they didn't get worse. And quite rightly we had reservations on our return journey from Oban so the journey was infinitely more pleasant.
Next I shall tell you of the journey from Glasgow to Bristol in the final part of this story.