“Londinium here we come!”
I’m fairly confident that everyone around the world says pretty much the same thing: “I’m not voting because my vote doesn’t count!” the recent result in the UK over the European Union membership proves just how wrong those people are! The same is often said about your MP “Hmm? It’s pointless writing to them; they never do anything.” I can personally say that is not true either. Recently I wrote to my MP Eddie Hughes about a parking problem where I live, and I have to say, he not only wrote to the local authority about the problem but saw to it that notices were put up reminding staff at the local NHS unit that it was a residential street and to be respectful to residents.
Now, because I have had some email correspondence with my MP they’ve put me on a mailing list. I actually don’t mind although I will say I don’t remember giving consent? Recently, on behalf of the Conservative Party, the local constituency sent me a questionnaire, the usual stuff, What do you think of the local Police? What about the bins? Typical, local, run of the mill things. The final question was basically “Do you fancy a trip to see the Houses of Parliament?” All that was required was a small fee to cover the cost of the coach which in our case was £17.00 each. A pittance in my opinion so I duly paid up and awaited the 21st January to come around.
We all had to meet at the constituency office at 6:30 am ready for the four hour trip to London. To be honest, I was totally stunned that it would take that long, in fact, I said to the wife that we must be making a few pick-ups for it to take that long! How wrong was I? With around 20 of us on the coach we set off, and after a weird route through Walsall, we joined the M6. This Motorway is a complete and utter nightmare in the West Midlands, they’ve allowed traffic to use the hard shoulder and I have to say, it hasn’t made the slightest difference in fact there has never been a better example of Induced Demand than the M6 I suspect, even if they made it an 8 lane motorway it would still be bumper to bumper like it is now. We managed to fight our way past Birmingham and headed for the M40 were we pulled off for a fifteen-minute break at the services, and when I say fifteen minutes, it was literally, get off the coach, visit the toilet, grab some food, back on the coach and off we continued.
“Four hours pfft.”
As we approached Heathrow the traffic started to build up, to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. We slipped into the City of Westminster just after 10:00 am and after passing Hyde Park and Marble Arch we arrived just over the road from the Houses of Parliament pretty much bang on 11:00. We walked across a couple of roads and were soon waiting on the ramp down to the security entrance just by the statue of Oliver Cromwell, a hero and father of British democracy to some or an utter villain to others. As we shuffled forwards towards the security screening, I had to admit to the Mrs that it did, in fact, take four hours to get there and it wasn’t as if the driver was hanging around either. I’m still mystified today. Four hours!
“Any offensive weapons sir?”
We were now in the world of security guards and machine gun toting Police. They hand you a string lanyard with a bit of paper on it saying “This is a visitor and probably poor, so it’s OK to shoot these peasants.” LOL, I’m lying, it did say VISITOR in bold letters, but I didn’t bother to read the rest of it. The security area is very much like an airport; you have to remove all metal objects, your coat, scarf and belt and place it all in a plastic box that goes through an x-ray machine while you walk through a metal detector. Just before entering and because I do love to play the wife up a bit I saw people remove jumpers and tops I said to the wife:
Me: “Blimey, security’s a bit strict in’t it?”
Wife: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Well I understand removing belts and coins etc. but I’m not happy about being strip-searched in public.”
Wife: “Don’t be stupid, they’re not going to do that!”
Me: “Really? Look there; they’re making that girl take her top off!”
Me: “Yeah, thank god I had a shower last night. Have you got clean underwear on?
They weren’t really; I have no idea why one or two people took jumpers or sweatshirts off maybe they were hot? Maybe security did ask them to remove them? I have no idea. Having passed the security checks and been suitably intimidated by the two burly officers sporting Heckler & Koch machine guns behind a counter, we made our way through to Westminster Hall. This is where Charles I was tried and later executed just through that window at the back which was very different back then. It was PIGGING FREEZING in there! I mean really cold, in fact, I’m convinced it was colder than outside. Westminster Hall is where everyone congregates before your official Parliamentary guide, in our case Kenneth, takes you at breakneck speed round the two houses Lords & Commons. We climbed SEVERAL steps panting, coughing and wheezing arrived in the central Lobby where Ken showed us the quaint Victorian looking post office and the seriously outdated Phone Message board where MP’s still to this day receive hand-written telephone messages!
Sadly once you climb the stairs of Westminster Hall, you’re not allowed to take any pictures which is a shame really because some of the ceilings and paintings are really beautiful. One thing you need to keep in mind though is that most of Parliament is in fact, Victorian, rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style, while parts of it are at least a 1000 years old it has in fact burnt down a couple of times, and the Luftwaffe popped over with a group of interior designers and unusually for the efficient Germans made a complete mess of the place.
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.
The royal dressing room is fairly nice and pretty large, the room is very Arthurian in style with all the shields of the knights of the round table around the ceiling even Prince Albert is portrayed as King Arthur in a painting. Apparently, Queen Victoria was fascinated with the legend. From there we moved into the House of Lords where we were allowed to ‘stand’ in the rows of benches but not allowed to sit (It was the same thing in The Commons) I’m not sure what to say about it really, it was very red. They told us where various people sat such as Bishops etc. but there wasn’t anything that really stood out in my mind other than the Queen’s throne which is covered in 24-carat gold. I actually hated it; the thing was very much in your face and garish. There was one story that made us chuckle and was very typical of the man. Apparently, upon seeing it, Michael Jackson wanted to buy it LOL. I can just picture him now, sitting on his throne in Never-never Land.
And so to The House of Commons. It was very green and, and this is interesting, pretty small! When you see it on the TV, it looks fairly spacious, but that’s due to the camera angles from what we were told. In fact, they can only fit about 400 odd MP’s in there, and there are around 700 odd individuals who are entitled to be in there! Did I mention it was small? We also learned that the Speakers chair used to double as a commode, there also used to be curtains that hung from the canopy which could be drawn so the speaker could have a cheeky poop. This is why MP’s shake papers when talking, it was to waft away the smell. Bwahahaha.
The wife and I, thankfully, stood on the correct side, the conservative side, LOL. I said to the Mrs “I’m so glad we’re on this side and not with all the Communists over there!” she wasn’t very impressed if truth be told and accused me of being ‘very political’ “Moi?” As we made our way out we were allowed to touch the dispatch box that the Prime Minister leans on when addressing the House. I resisted the temptation even though the wife kept saying “You know you want to!”
Committee room meeting.
And so the tour was over and we were back in Westminster Hall just in time to meet Eddie Hughes our MP for a photo shoot along with a video. There’s always one isn’t there? And the wife just had to ruin things by being one of those people who just has to wave at the camera! I can’t believe she led me astray as we both laughed at her antics. LOL
Now it was time to give Eddie a grilling! We’d all been given cards on the coach to fill out if we wanted Eddie to answer any questions. As you’d expect there was the usual Policing topic which, in my opinion, Eddie spent a little too long on leaving little time for other questions. I did write one of my own, given Eddie voted against ‘The Deal’ I wanted to know what his plan would be long term for the Irish border. Eddie is firmly in the camp of “Taking back control of our borders” and I kind of saw his point with regards being against the idea of two UK, two EU and one independent committee member deciding when the ‘Backstop’ would end, there’s clearly a bigger question going on here and that is soverignty over Northern Ireland, what I mean is, it all depends where you think the UK border ends, is it Portsmouth? Dover? Liverpool? or is there no border at those ports and it’s the Irish border? My personal view is, Leave Ireland alone, we can always beef up the (English) border to control what comes over the water and my pride certainly isn’t hurt if a couple of EU MP’s end up, with the support of an independent, deciding on what happens between The Republic and Northern Ireland.
Get your wallet out!
The meeting over we were ushered back downstairs and informed we now had about an hour to visit the Jubilee cafe and maybe the Souvenir Shop. There’s no “Maybe?” about it! As you descend the stairs you enter the Shop, you have to go through it to get to the cafe. I had a quick look at the insanely overpriced items, I did pick up a House of Commons portcullis coaster made of thin tin and an equally thin bit of corks “Six quid! Oi love, look at this SIX QUID! I can get two sets of six for that in Dunelm!” I didn’t buy the coaster in fact I didn’t buy anything from the shop.
We headed down to the cafe and was greeted by wall to wall Veganism! Now don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with it but it was a bit strong to only have that as a choice, we had Vegan cakes, Vegans crisps and Vegan sandwiches. There was a hot-shelf that was now empty of any meat products and after moving some of the vegan products around the wife managed to find a chicken wrap but I have to say, it was a pretty poor show all round to be honest.
That’s your lot, now push off!
There was still about twenty minutes to go until we left, so we had a another wander around the freezing Westminster Hall and then popped outside to see if we could see any MP’s arriving. We didn’t see any or at least any we recognised some guy turned up in a chauffeur driven Jaguar, hopped out, and then proceeded to have a very lengthy conversation in the security cabin but apart from watching people letting themselves in and out of the security gate that was about it. Fortunately our chaperone (I never did get her name, I feel really bad now.) rounded us all up ready to leave. As we walked up towards the gates there was a turnstile exit. I suspect the wife has never used one before because as I started to push the full length bar she gave out a squeal! The brains of our relationship had tried to fit in the same quarter as me! LOL
That’s it and farewell London. We were all back on the coach and praying we could get out of London as quickly as possible. There’s not much to say about the trip back I was pleased I finally managed to catch a glimpse of a Tube train, I’ve not seen one for over 30 years I know, ridiculous, seeing a Tube train, wow. We travelled back non stop and fairly smoothly until we hit Birmingham where the M6 didn’t let us down and was gridlocked for a couple of miles. 7.00 pm and as set out on the itinerary we were back home. The Mrs and I both agree it was a good day out but pretty tiring given it was all pretty non-stop whirlwind. If ever we did it again I think I’d take the option of getting ourselves there the day before and meeting up the following day.