I visited the Palace of Westminster this week with my big kid on an educational school trip.
It was a very cold, wet and windy day, and we were patriotically under-dressed and sans brollies. We took a good lashing from Mother Nature.
The tour of the Houses of Parliament was cool, dry and stuffy, and the little radio headphones we were given so we could hear better were sub-optimal.
The House of Commons was closed to ordinary commoners like us, but the House of Lords was open as long as we refrained from parking our cold, wet and windy working class bums on our superiors' ‘holier than thou’ red leather benches. Police guards armed with sub-machine guns would forcibly remove any insubordinate eight or nine year olds, and presumably march them straight to the Tower of London (or shoot them dead if they looked like Jean Charles de Menezes.
The children asked a police officer why he carried a gun, and they learned it is to keep them safe. That may be true, but I didn’t feel safer, and there were no buses to flag down.
The children learned that murderous megalomaniac misogynist King Henry VIII is still held in very high regard in these parts, despite beheading two of his six wives, and creating a new religion and laws to divorce two more.
I asked the children how the chamber of the House of Lords made them feel.
We had lunch across the road outside Portcullis House where we could shelter a little from the wind and rain. Portcullis House is where elected Members of Parliament (MP) and their staff have offices. There were lots of posh-looking mostly white men going in and out and getting frisked inside by more armed guards. Out in the cold, we shared our lunch with toothless and homeless Len, who we found sleeping in the doorway next to us, and looking very wet and cold. Len told us he was “a midget, a dwarf from Burnley” and he’d come to London to sort his life out, but his marriage failed and here he was. He was very pleased to have a homemade tuna mayonnaise sandwich, a juice drink and a satsuma. My wife told me off when we got home, claiming that he will have sold or exchanged the sandwich for drugs.
We waited for our own MP Virendra Sharma to come and meet us as the teachers had arranged. No one knew what he looked like, so they asked me as my lad told them I had met him before (which is true). Then we played a game “Where’s Sharma?” until he appeared. Mr Sharma thanked the kids for coming to meet him, and asked them who wanted his job. His two assistants took photographs.
We ended the day by getting drenched walking up to see Downing Street and the Horse Guards Parade. Downing Street was, of course, guarded by more armed police and totally inaccessible to us ordinary folk, and the parade smelled of horse shit.