Going Home After Day One of the Paralympics

This is James. We met yesterday evening at St Pancras station. Our conversation was brief as his train was due before mine, and the passenger assistance employee came to meet him to help him board.

James

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Trafalgar Square

The Mall is still closed, but you can walk a few yards into it and look out at Trafalgar Square through Admiralty Arch.

Admiralty Arch from The Mall


Nelson no longer has a Union flag on his hat, but I think they must have taken the opportunity to give him a quick wash when they removed it.

Nelson

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London’s Savoy Hotel

The Savoy Hotel, London


I noticed the rather nice topiary cats outside The Savoy when I was on The Strand today. I hope they aren’t plastic. There has been a trend for plastic topiary outside hotels that baffles me.
The Savoy Hotel is famous for very good teas, its association with Gilbert and Sullivan, and C├ęsar Ritz. Continue reading

Smile, the Paralympics are Coming

First up, I was disappointed to learn that although the torch would be lit in the Houses of Parliament while I was working there on Friday, I would be unlikely to see it.
However, just as we were leaving the Lords Chamber on my second tour, we were told to stop. There was a lot of hanging around, and people in grey shorts with turquoise trim walking backwards and forwards. Then an announcement explaining that the torch was going to be lit in front of us in Peers’ Lobby and that photography would be allowed. I didn’t have my camera, but I am hoping the members of the Royal navy who took this blog address will send their photos here. In the meantime, you can see it here on the BBC news. The two torch bearers were both workers for Sainsbury’s who have been responsible for heroic acts while at work, one saving the life of woman who had been crushed by a car, the other helping an elderly customer who had suffered a stroke. Their smiles say it all.

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Black Rod and the State Opening of Parliament


Most people will have heard of Black Rod, though some may think he is some sort of pirate; Jake’s brother perhaps. Who knows what he gets up to in his spare time. To give him his full title, The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod is a servant in the House of Lords, responsible for ceremony and security.
His television appearances are generally restricted to the State Opening of Parliament, formerly an annual affair, not just once every two years. Which is a pity, particularly in the case of the current Black Rod, who has a twinkle in his eye, a fine sense of humour and could gladden our hearts in winter when we are all mourning the loss of summer and the end of the Olympics.
Don’t be fooled by the outfit. This is no dandy. He’s a military man; look at the medals. A man who doesn’t give up easily. Which is a good thing as he’s the one sent to summon the Commons at the State Opening.
Why the Queen can’t just give the thumbs up to the Speaker, I don’t know. After all, with all the doors open she can see him facing her down the spine of the building. But no, Black Rod has to go to tell the Commons they are needed. Of course. They can see him coming, and as he approaches, they slam the door in his face. Well, nuts to that. He lifts the Black Rod that signifies his office and raps on the door. Dennis Skinner, MP, and others call out all sorts of rude things that loosely translate as Go Away. He doesn’t. They let him in. He says quite a lot, including the words, “Her Majesty commands the presence of this House immediately in the House of Peers.”
So the Prime Minister, the Leader of the opposition, all the front bench MPs and those who have never before attended a State Opening, heave them selves to their feet and make their way down to the Lords in an orderly school crocodile. They can’t sit down when they get there, so they all bunch together beneath the Strangers’ Gallery to listen to the Queen’s Speech. By the way, although it is called the Queen’s Speech, she doesn’t write it, though she has a seen a copy beforehand. I don’t know if she takes a blue pencil and corrects spelling and punctuation. Probably not.
Once the State Opening is over, Black Rod tends to fade from the public eye. But he’s still around, and in another post, I’ll say a bit more about him. And why he has the door slammed in his face.

Arts in Parliament

Back in parliament for the next three days. I do hope we’ll have a television in the guides’ room. There’s a dance event in Westminster Hall at 12.30 and again at 5.00 tomorrow as part of the Arts in Parliamentseason. I’m hoping I’ll get to see some of it.
It is a ticketed event but free. I don’t know if there are any seats left. To find out you would need to go to parliament.uk/artsinparliament. Continue reading

London 2012: Just Brilliant

OK, I’ve not made it into any of the official venues yet, but I have watched more television in the last week than in the previous six months. I have tickets for the Paralympics at the end of the month and I am happy with that.

The atmosphere in London is amazing. Everyone is talking about the Olympics. In the local supermarket the other day a customer was chatting with a member of staff about the Opening Ceremony. Yesterday, my Southwark Olympic badge was admired and we sighed jealously when another customer at the check out said he’d been at the men’s gymnastics. Today, as well as asking if I needed a bag, the assistant asked if I was enjoying the games.

Southwark Olympic Badge

Bewilderingly, some news sources are consistently peddling stories of misery around the Olympics. Don’t believe them. Get here if you are somewhere else. London is simply amazing.

I went to the wonderful London Camera Exchange on The Strand yesterday. The staff are knowledgeable, helpful and not at all condescending. Again, talk was about the Olympics. Yes, someone was getting frustrated at the difficulty of getting tickets, but part of that frustration is because we all want to be there, take part in some small way. Even if it’s just in a taxi.

Olympic Sponsorship Taxi

Unlike some other shops, the London Camera Exchange has seen an increase in custom which staff put down to first the Jubilee, which now seems like a warm up act, and now the Olympics.

The theatres which were quiet last week are filling up again. I loved the attitude of the people who said they had wanted tickets for the games, but when they couldn’t get them, decided to go to the theatre. That’s the beauty of London; there is always so much to do.

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