So, once again I have promised you my wonderful home town of London ... are you ready? I'd best start with a warning as this post is picture and word heavy so, you know the drill, have you filled your tea pot and sitting with your feet up? Believe me, I have done all the foot work for you (my feet are still throbbing!). This was also the first real outing with my new 'alternative' camera as it is a lot smaller (a Canon IXUS 132 - from now on called 'Pixie'!) So, are you settled and comfortable? Here we go... this is London calling...
I always say I'm a bit of an anorak when it comes to old buildings and architecture, so I was delighted and honoured by being asked to come along to see an event at the Houses of Parliament in the House of Lords. I was actually going inside! It's one of those occasions where I just wanted to be totally embarrassing and jump up and down as though I had just got the best Christmas present ever! Yes, you can arrange to visit at any time but it's one of those things that I never got around to doing, and this occasion was certainly something that I really didn't want to miss.
We had to keep to a strict time table so checking the time was crucial throughout the day and good old reliable Ben was there as we approached, telling us that we were comfortably early and there was no need to worry.
Excitement and nerves were with me and my colleagues as we entered through the Peers Entrance, through the revolving door and then... we were in! Through security and into a cloak room that seemed to whisk you to the Victorian times (can you imagine how at home I felt!!). Lots of coat hooks with plates above saying 'Lord of...'. Stained glass windows, Victorian tiled floors, oil paintings, old ticking clocks, fires and wood panels. Yes, my eyes were out on stalks, trying to stop and drink in the beautiful architecture all around me but... no camera allowed! Can you imagine the frustration and temptation?! For someone who likes to tell a story through photos, it was incredibly disappointing. However, my memory banks were making room to absorb all that surrounded me. The uniforms of the staff, the little nooks and crannies. Oh so much beauty! I have found a link where you can take online tours if you would like to see inside. The link is here.
We walked with a colleague from one area to another where it was explained that the red carpet represented where you could walk for the House of Lords, the green for the House of Commons and the blue for Royal. I could tell the Royal part as, yes, the air smelt of fresh paint! It was explained that you were not allowed to cross from one carpet to another. Old, traditional, comfortable customs that are continuing. Even the canopies outside where the ministers and Lords sit by the Thames - one area has green and white stripes and the other one is red and white. Again, keeping the the Houses separate. Each room, hallway and lobby were covered in paintings, stained glass, treasures and beautiful, beautiful chandeliers. I can't do justice with my writing of this post to describe the grandeur, elegance and honour of being allowed to walk down these halls and corridors.
Lunch was to be served first in the Peers Dining Room. My eyes were everywhere! The table behind me had Betty Boothroyd and Lord Kinnock dining, and all around all Lords and Ladies meeting before the House sat. The food was beautiful and the service brilliant - but human (yes even the waiters here can drop things on the floor!). Then, you know when you look at someone and think, is it? No, it can't be! Don't stare! Let's look again... yes, he is walking towards the table... James Bond!... sorry, Pierce Brosnan!! Yes, it really was, I don't know why, but he was there walking through the dining room. A highlight for many female diners I can tell you!
Then, the time came, the reason why we were here. We were escorted to the Peer's lobby through what can only be described as a wallpaper door that opened up. We were led by a couple of ladies in white bow ties and tails. Again, my eyes could just take in all the details of the architecture and then a tantalising glimpse through a door where you could see the familiar House of Lords chamber with the Lords and Ladies walking through to take their seats. Everything fell silent and we were asked to move to a corner of the lobby. The speaker was processed in and then we were taken to a small door which led up some stone stairs, through a narrow red carpeted hallway with lots of small doors to our right. The floorboards were creaking and cracking and conversation fell to a hush. I felt that I was Alice in Wonderland and waiting for the adventure to start. The lady who was looking after us put her finger to her mouth to make sure we were quiet and then slowly opened the small door. We walked into the strangely familiar picture of a news programme, taking our seats in the gallery and ready for it all to start. Our colleague was first in the order of the day and we watched and willed him to do well. Now, I have included a link here to the Parliament TV site. If you go to the 4 February and watch from the very beginning you will see some blobs walking into the gallery at the top middle left of the screen (I'm one of the blobs!). We were incredibly proud, happy, nervous... every emotion was bubbling but the main one was honour, honoured to be witnessing this occasion.
If you are ever in London and want to take a look for yourself inside, there is a link here which gives details on how you can do this.
Official photos were taken and then we needed to leave our colleague to continue the order of the day. The time was now our own and time to reflect on what had just happened. Myself and my colleagues kept looking at each other and saying how serile it all was and it would take time to sink in. A coffee was in order to quietly reflect and then yes, it had to be done, a ride on the London Eye!
I am very much like my Grandad and love the old as well as the new architecture. Just looking up at this amazing feat of engineering makes my heart skip and the instant 'if only Grandad was still here' thoughts run through my head. He never quite had the time to go on this but I would take photos all those years ago and he was amazed at what he saw. His quote was "just imagine, I have been in every single building you can see!".
As we slowly rose into the London skyline, the familiar mixed with the strangers. St Paul's - the 'hope' of London during the War.
The Shard... oh dear! Urm, speechless! What saves this is the Isle of Dogs behind and the wonderful Canary Wharf. The sun started to go down and the atmosphere in London changes.
And then of course, the Houses of Parliament.
As a devoted Londoner, just a walk along the Thames is enough for me, breathing in the air, listening to the familiar sounds... and accent! I always say to those I know who are going down to London for a meeting or a quick visit "Wave to the Thames for me!" It's my happy place as you know. The river flows through so many centuries of architecture and life both on the river and off. It holds so many unknowns beneath the rippling waves but it carries on regally and softly. I can look at it for hours, meandering through the different areas of London from the top of the London Eye just makes me feel like home.
The sun began to dip behind the buildings and London took on a favourite and comfortable feel. This is the time I fall in love all over again, my heart swells for this place and then I find it difficult to tear myself away.
My eyes started to fill with tears as I walked over Westminster Bridge as I knew the journey back home was about to start. It's times like this that I like to be alone, just stopping and looking over the bridges and letting the busy crowds pass me by. I always feel that I am walking with my Grandad whenever I am in London and that is so comforting to me.
The memories that I took away on this day will remain with me for the rest of my life. Yes my feet still hurt, my head bangs with information overload, but I can now watch the House of Lords on TV and say, I've been there, I've walked along the corridors and I have seen the internal architectural beauty. I can now say I've walked in the footsteps of various members of my family through the decades and now know what they were describing.
My next London fix will be in a couple of weeks with my great teenagers. This time with more comfortable shoes and clothes and Ben will not be able to rush us. Can't wait! You can take the girl out of London but not London out of the girl!
One of the places we will visit (on Miss Teenager's orders), is this pub just off Trafalgar Square.
So, what do you think of 'Pixie' she did well didn't she? Not bad for a little camera (just a little tweaking on Picmonkey, but not bad at all).
If you have got to the end of this post, then you deserve a medal! With the lack of photography allowed inside the Houses of Parliament I have had to tell the story. Give yourself a gold star and an English teacake!
Have a wonderful weekend, and keep safe to all those who are still suffering with this awful weather. The ditches around my village are now full with water and we are waiting to see what this weekend will bring. I am just grateful that the 4 February had some sunshine in London for a change to show that it isn't grey and raining most of the time! Also, thank you all so, so much for your comments, following and visits over the last week. I'm afraid I have been a bit lacking on the answering front and visiting your blogs. I promise this will be rectified this weekend so I can catch up on what has been going on with you lovely people. Now I will dip my hobbit feet and... relax!