Sunday, 14 April 2013

Houses of Parliament

We are not regulars at Westminster. Fiona and 12 year old Clare had never been there. I went on a Parliamentry lobby back in 1985. Fellow blogger and our MP Guy Opperman stresses how welcome his constituents are to request a "members visit". Essentially this is a privately booked 75 minute free tour of the building. The "members tour" is an industry in itself and only in the summer recess does it morpth into a publicly advertised tour.  Our daughter Clare is 12 so we booked her her first London treat for two nights last week (recommends Harlingford Hotel). Did we pack it in? Both myself and Fiona each had a separate day's work (Wiki and CILIP). We left Prudhoe on the 0630 Thurs and I was back 2137 Sat. In the gap were compressed the RAF Museum at Hendon, Les Miserables at The Queen's (turn up, join the "Returns" queue and pay £67.50 each for a mesmerising experience, all the more for being unplanned), photographing loads of buses, trains and buildings, and the Sylvanian shop in Finsbury Park. London takes time, the Underground was not behaving either day. Clare was exhausted by the time she got back on a train north. She was though electrified with the core visits.

Funny how Les Miserables and the Commons came together! In an age when church institutions struggle largely through their own failings to convince, the 28 year old musical selling out night after night presents the gospel of redeeming love and the nature of freedom. This is the Christian message being proclaimed night after night in the centre of London. Some might not realise this. I knew little enough about the show or the book beforehand. We only went because a friend had taken Clare to see the film and she has not stopped talking about it since.

It was a good warm up act to the Houses of Parliament. For the latter are the triumphant expression of the power of British parliamentary democracy. It would be easy to say the architecture is Victorian Gothic and imperalist. However through all the overwhelming trappings of glory, a human story of struggle shines out, one you realise has been centuries in the making. The tour turned the so familiar building into a human tale. Now maybe perhaps my next move would be to attend a debate, I am already thanks to Guy, in Hansard. Forget any narrow political differences and rejoice to live in a free democracy won only at the cost of a lot of blood, blood which was indeed well on show as we were shown around.

The photo shows Westminster Hall, this is the only place inside where the public may use cameras. It was built in 1097. You can imagine how impressive it was, even though the roof is newer.

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