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Ditchley Park

Ditchley Park, Enstone, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Though I didn’t make the short drive from Oxford on Saturday afternoon to see Ditchley Park, I recently read an interesting story about it in the Churchill biography by Roy Jenkins.

I’ve always heard that Ditchley Park was offered to Churchill during W.W.I.I. because the weekend house for use by serving Prime Minister’s, Chequers:

“in its Buckinghamshire hollow, was held to be unacceptably vulnerable at the time on the month ‘when the moon was high’”.

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Chartwell, Westerham, Kent

We had a visit to Churchill’s beloved Chartwell on Wednesday morning. One of his private secretaries related a delightful story about each time the PM would arrive at the gates of the driveway. As one makes the final stretch of the drive, you come up a hill and then wind down and around several bends with the roofline of Chartwell finally appearing through the trees. Each time they were on this final part of the winding drive, cigars and papers would be flying everywhere around the car; once they reached the gates of Chartwell, Sir Winston would always repeat the words, “Ah, Chartwell!”

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East Bergholt, Suffolk

The country house “Stour” was purchased in 1957 by Randolph Churchill, son of the Prime Minister, upon deciding to move from London. It’s still in private hands and we were quite fortunate to be able to due to the generosity of its current owners, Mr & Mrs Kelly. The organizers of the tour, Richard and Barbara Langworth had written the Kelly’s a letter regarding our trip and had persuaded them to host us with a lunch of sandwiches and sausage rolls.

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White House Hotel, London

I was pleasantly engaged in a chat with three fellow travelers on my journey and all of a sudden, from behind, a full rear assault by a woman of a certain age and a somewhat familiar face. She stormed me from behind and I didn’t see it coming whatsoever. She forced her hand in mine and said, “Hello, I’m Mary…”

Well, it all took me by such great surprise and I’m naturally used to calling people by their first names, that I replied, “Hi Mary, its very nice to meet you.”

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White House Hotel, London

On our tour of the Houses of Parliament, we continued on from the House of Lords through the Central Lobby which is the lobby that lies between both of the houses of parliament. The rules of the House provide that any constituent, at any time can come into this lobby and demand to see their representative. These days of course ‘lobbying’ is a bit more organized than strolling in unannounced.

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London

We had an 8:45 departure this crisp Monday morning from the hotel. First stop The Palace of Westminster or more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament.

I have been to London many times before, and there’s much to see but I’ve never been to visit the inside of the Houses of Parliament prior to this trip. Our guides were able to secure a tour for us thanks to the courtesy of The Hon Nicholas Soames MP, grandson of Sir Winston.

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Endel Street, London

Time for a ‘Full English’ breakfast

I had an excellent night’s sleep last night after being out at a drinks party at a friend’s flat over in Marylebone until 1:30 AM.

What jet lag?

I’m sitting here at a small sidewalk café just off Covent Garden after having had an excellent little full-English breakfast at The Old Express in this tucked-away little market just off Park Lane in Mayfair; The Shepherds Market. I thought this time of year was supposed to be before the tourist season begins but the streets are packed with shoppers and assorted sightseers. It’s astounding how many languages that one hears while strolling about in the City.

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Heathrow Airport

Catching the Heathrow Express to Paddington

I caught the Heathrow Express and if you haven’t ever done this it’s the new train that goes directly to Paddington Station. It gets you from Heathrow to the City in 15 minutes. All the cabbies are of course quite upset about it, but such is progress.

Last year when I was in London I actually got a stern lecture by a cabbie, because the doorman at the hotel asked where we were going and I said, “Heathrow.”

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Somewhere Above the Pole

Compliments to the Staff

The flight was excellent. We arrived on the flight to Heathrow a few minutes early and I actually had very nice service from two flight attendants, both of them English.

Well, actually from one flight attendant.

The nice one was quite sweet and sincere and the other had been flying with United since the Magna Carta was signed. I gave them both the little appreciation comment cards that United sends out every so often. I gave the card to the first one because she was indeed very sweet and to the second one because I thought she really needed something to cheer her up. She seemed in dire need of it actually. I had a nice meal, several glasses of wine and a sleeping pill.

There was a very delightful lady with whom I shared the row. She is a nurse from West Virginia and living in Honolulu. She and I were both reading but had a very enjoyable conversation over dinner. She was just newly engaged and is travelling to Scotland with a girlfriend for a week touring around with no plans at all—just a list of B&B’s around the country. Sounds refreshingly fun.

I woke up an hour before landing with breakfast of fruit and pastry. I’m sure it’s difficult to bake at 30,000 feet. Seriously, do things rise at this altitude? I’d recommend sticking with the fresh fruit.

We arrived about mid-day as fresh as new.

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Red Carpet Club, Los Angeles International 

Ahh—a nice crisp, cold glass of Chardonnay. Well, cheap Chardonnay, but anyway it’s cold. I’m still sitting here in the Red Carpet Club and as I posted earlier it’s rather busy here. All I could hear were middle-aged white guys chatting on their cell phones about.. well I didn’t really care what, actually. So, I thought that I would try out all my little gadgets while I’m in here. I’m already on the Internet thanks to a little wireless company called Boingo.

I pulled out my new little ear-bud headphones and loaded up Windows Media Player and now all I hear is Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17. It’s blaring away and a truly amazing piece. Divine really. It’s like sitting here in the midst of commotion and chaos and feeling like I’m in a dream. I can still see their mouths moving, but all I hear is Mozart! Anyone finding this as amusing as I am?

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