There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Get Well Soon Randolph Hotel

Yesterday afternoon, just after 4:30, I looked out my kitchen window and saw helicopters circling overhead, which meant something was up in central Oxford.  In the next second Stuart sent me a message saying The Randolph Hotel was on fire, and my heart lurched.  An old friend was in trouble and I felt sick at heart.  I met The Randolph even before I ever met Stuart, and it's been a part of my Oxford landscape for the past 21 years.

When I first visited Oxford during the
summer of 1994, The Randolph Hotel was high on my list of places to visit.  It was used in the movie 'Shadowlands' as the place C.S. Lewis first met Joy Davidman, when she walked in and said in a loud, brash voice, "Is there a Mr. Lewis here?" They actually met at the Eastgate Hotel, but The Randolph is where I wanted to have afternoon tea and experience the backdrop of that scene for myself.

So over 20 years ago, my sister, two nieces, and I walked into the drawing room, where afternoon tea is served, and I immediately felt like Joy and C.S.'s love story was alive.  We settled into the big chairs and ordered an enormous afternoon tea, complete with the three-tiered cake stand and copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.  I even kept my menu, stealthily tucking it into my bag (sorry Mr. Randolph) and still have it today as a keepsake.

My next visit to The Randolph's drawing room was when I took my mom, aunt, and daughter there on a Sunday afternoon in 1996. We were seated at a table by the window, overlooking the Ashmolean Museum, and ordered their 'Celebration' afternoon tea. This time it was served on a huge, free-standing, tiered cake stand, that stood on the floor next to the table.
My crazy red-haired auntie and my mom were always a bit loopy when they were together, but having a special afternoon tea had them flying an extra three feet off the ground. It was made worse by the quiet hush to the room. The only sounds were low conversations and the delicate tinkling of teacups--all very elegant and subdued.

All of a sudden, either my mom or my aunt, decided to get up to visit the ladies room and bumped into the cake stand sitting next to her chair.  The stand went flying, the scones became airborne, the plates crashed to the ground--and all eyes were upon us. Without even thinking I knew this was too important of a forever-memory for my mom and aunt to let a few posh British people make them feel embarrassed, so in that moment I decided to make Joy Davidman my role model.  I laughed and waved at the people staring, gaily helping the waitress clean up, completely ignoring the British heads shaking and despairing of Americans.  Let the eyes roll, the heads shake, I wasn't about to subdue the joy my mom and aunt were experiencing.  A few flying scones never hurt anyone.

My wonderfully fun auntie.
The chaos continued when the two of them became lost after visiting the ladies room and I finally found them on the third floor.  How or why they made their way up there is a mystery, but they were laughing like schoolgirls and having the time of their lives. Again I acted Joy-like and pretended it was no big deal to usher two women in their late 60's, who had a serious case of the giggles, through the corridors of an elegant hotel.  And I'm so glad I did, since all they've ever remembered of that afternoon was joy, and laughter, and companionship.  I'm doubly glad because my crazy red-haired auntie has passed away and my mom no longer knows who I am--but the joy of that afternoon lives on in the wonderful memory.

Now that we live in Oxford, The Randolph is where we take family and friends who are visiting.  I'll never forget the sight of my enormous 6'5" nephews, gently sipping from their teacups and thoroughly enjoying a very British afternoon tea.

A special afternoon tea last August, when one 
of my Bestie BFFs came from Sweden to visit .

From our 3-hour tea in March.
And then there's Stuart and I and The Randolph. We love afternoon tea and we have it often and in large amounts. In Oxford, The Randolph is where we go for tea and would never go anywhere else. We go at Christmas time, Easter, birthdays, and just-because. Our last afternoon tea in the drawing room was just at the end of March, when we sat by the window for almost three hours, finally leaving in a clotted cream and Earl Grey/champagne stupor.

So that's why my heart lurched and I felt like crying yesterday afternoon, seeing the pictures of Oxford's beloved Randolph on fire.  It's part of Oxford's landscape, and part of my own personal landscape, and I can't imagine it not being there. But I know it will come back better than ever.  Stuart and I can't wait for the next time we ease into the big, soft chairs, I sip my champagne, we fight over who gets the last little sandwich, we pile the clotted cream onto our scones, and drink Earl Grey to our heart's content.  We pray for a fast recovery and give thanks for all the happy memories made there.  Get well soon Randolph Hotel.

This was the scene yesterday afternoon, before fire fighters
had even entered the building.  The fire started in the kitchen
and quickly spread up to the roof, but no one was injured and
everyone was safely evacuated.  The scaffolding is already going
up today, the repairs and rebuilding will begin soon,
and I know it will come back, better than ever.

Today is also the birthday of Joy Davidman, 
born in 1915, and beloved wife of C.S. Lewis.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever, 
its loveliness increases;
it will never pass into nothingness.
~John Keats


  1. Absolutely lovely!! Kudos to you for turning a calamity into an event of joyful exuberance, and a great memory for your mom and aunt! And thank you for this wonderful walk through your afternoon tea. I do hope the Randolph recovers soon! Was it gutted? So sad. I'm sure they will restore it to look as it originally did and not create some modern monstrosity as so often, alas, happens over here. Thank you again for a wonderful snapshot of life in Oxford! Love this blog!! Jane xo

    1. I think they'll keep it as Victorian and elegant as ever and our next afternoon tea there will be even more special--it really will be a "celebration" tea. xxxooo