2019 Day 125 – Houses of Parliament

It’s quite extraordinary how many things there are to see in London when you’re not feeding squirrels on a daily basis. Meanwhile, I’ll probably be on a squirrel black list somewhere, shunned for neglect of nut duty.

We get our first taste of the rain that’s threatened for days – our way to lunch is through a downpour, quickly flooding the streets. Nothing like a drenching to make you feel like a proper Londoner. We wade our way to a ramen house for a bowl of warming noodles.

Having had a poor experience yesterday, we’re back to following chefs’ recommendations, with immediate success. The noodles are excellent, but the star of the show is the stock, 12 hours in the making, its flavour is divine.

We’ve booked ourselves in for a self guided tour of the Houses of Parliament this afternoon.

We’re quite lucky to be able to see it today, suspended Parliament having been reconvened this week. One thing’s certain: it’s a fascinating time in British politics. Without a deal in place as the 31 October Brexit deadline looms, the country is imploding. Debate is raging, everything from censuring the PM for allegedly misleading the Queen in asking her to suspend Parliament and/or calling for his resignation in not having yet brokered a deal, to calling for a new referendum on whether to exit or stay. Neither party is brave enough, nor able to, call for an election – it’s utter chaos. I half expect to see Members at fisticuffs in the corridors, perhaps temporarily thinking they’re in Italian parliament, where passion breaks behavioural protocols frequently.

Security is tight on entry but we’re finally in. We start in Westminster Hall under 1,000 years of history. With carved wooden angels looking down, this is the oldest part of the complex. It’s here royalty and Prime Ministers have lain in state and international dignitaries deliver speeches.

Himself gets comfortable in the seat of power.

From there, it’s through to St Stephen’s Porch

leading into St Stephen’s Hall,

the latter, the site of the royal chapel of St Stephen’s, where the House of Commons sat until the chapel was destroyed in a fire in 1834.

Unfortunately, from this point photography is no longer allowed. It’s a shame, as it’s here the grandeur starts. The central lobby divides the House of Lords from the House of Commons. The lobby features mosaics, representing the saints of England, Scotland, (then, all of) Ireland and Wales, collectively, the United Kingdom.

We tour the House of Lords chamber first: it has finishes to rival any palace. Intricately carved wood, red leather banquettes and gilt finishes would be impressive enough, but the cherry on top is a gloriously gold setting, to seat the Monarch, their consort and the Prince of Wales.

We see the very pleasingly named “content lobby” and “not content lobby” where peers cast their votes on matters before them. We tour the chamber where the monarch robes for official parliamentary duties and the Royal Gallery, finished in a Tudor style with paintings of past monarchs and their wives. Henry VIII has quite the collection.

Then it’s back through the Central Lobby to tour the House of Commons chamber. It’s furnished with green banquettes and carved wood, but there’s not a hint of gold – much more circumspect than its glamourous counterpart. The House of Commons has a “no lobby” and an “aye lobby” for casting of votes by members. Each of the Houses has an additional lobby where peers and members can meet with the public, reporters and the like.

Our audio guide does an excellent job in detailing each room’s purpose and taking us behind the scenes with additional stories. They’ve even taken the trouble to update the Houses’ recorded debates to Brexit related matters.

It’s been utterly fascinating – I’m so glad we toured the Houses of Parliament. Despite how familiar the settings are from TV, going behind the scenes revealed so much more. I just would have liked to have taken many, many photos!!!

On the way out, we see Big Ben. Well, the shape of Big Ben – it’s under scaffold, undergoing restoration.

We cross Westminster Bridge to take the classic shot, but the sun’s against me.

The London Eye looks great from here though,

and it’s only a short hop through tourists and gulls

to the Millenium Bridge – we finally cross it, having walked past it endlessly.

What an utterly fabulous day. Have fallen very much in step with London life.