In the Footsteps of Royalty

I’m hoping my Instagram feed will explain that I have been pretty busy so far this month, and time for blogging has been conspicuously absent. One day of heavy rain last week sent me back to my waterproof shoes, and yesterday morning I was glad to find a pair of gloves in my bag, but spring is settling into its stride with longer days and plenty of sunshine.

Most of my work this coming week is with private groups; just two public walks with LW and then parliament on Saturday.

Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

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From Now Until Christmas

So you’ve written your cards, wrapped the presents, decorated the tree and planned the menu for Christmas Day. What now? You don’t want to twiddle your thumbs until 25th December.

And you certainly don’t want to join the increasingly desperate shoppers in the big stores.

Well, London is your oyster. Tomorrow, Monday 14th I am again taking the boat to Greenwich with a self-selected group for a guided tour.

Royal Naval College

Royal Naval College

You can be one of their number simply by meeting me outside Tower Hill tube station by the Tramshed Coffee Stop for 10.30 and handing over £15.50. That’s £10 for the tour and £5.50 for the boat. If you are over 65, or a full-time card carrying student then you get a reduction of £2 on the tour.

If you are planning a later start to the day, I’ll be outside Russell Square tube station for 2.30 ready to lead a tour inside the British Museum.

Wednesday 16th I’ll be guiding at the Tower of London, meet me at Tower Hill tube by the Tramshed Coffee stop for 11.00. Continue reading

Parliament Guide Number One

Victoria Tower

Victoria Tower

I have been very lucky this week with my work; indoors when it has been raining – British Museum, Westminster Abbey – outside when it has been dry. Tomorrow is no exception. The forecast is for yet more rain. Some visitors believe this is what it is like all the time here. That, thank goodness, is not the case. Continue reading

Tours of the Houses of Parliament

Parliament returns tomorrow to debate the situation in Syria. Politicians are due to resume next week anyway, and gradually the buildings have shed their holday mood and are gearing up for the new term. We were spotting members of the Lords and the Commons throughout the day.

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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

Saturday at the Palace of Westminster

Had a great day guiding in the Palace of Westminster aka the Houses of Parliament today. Four lovely groups who were interested and responsive. The tour lasts just over an hour, though visitors need to arrive early to clear security. It follows the Line of Route from the Victoria Tower, leading through the Lords and then to the Commons and finishing in Westminster Hall.

My favourite room remains the Prince’s Chamber. It is, at least for the palace, intimate in scale, and the perfect setting for a winter dinner party. I said as much to one group, and a man told me I should go to Broadstairs where there is pub with a restaurant not dissimilar to the Princes Chamber.

The Prince’s Chamber

This isn’t my photo as you can’t take pictures inside the palace. I found it on Google. It is a couple of years old as the paintings of the Armada have been installed where you can see red panels at the top of the wall. Still, I hope it gives you some idea.

There were lots of new security people I did not know, but just as I ended my last tour I saw Naughty Nigel walking through Westminster Hall. It is ages since I saw him. The security staff at the palace are a good bunch and I have enjoyed working alongside them over the years.

Having got up to speed with Nigel, I turned and saw Leroy toting his gun. In the past we used to start the tours at Sovereign’s Entrance. Groups would go through security while an armed policeman stood close by. Leroy was always my favourite policeman on these occasions. He would diffuse the awkwardness by beaming at the visitors and asking them for their sweets. It always raised a smile.

I didn’t see any of the sniffer dogs today, alas. They are a happy hardworking bunch and a joy to watch.

It’s the Weekend! Visit the Palace of Westminster and the South Bank

So what have you got planned?

You could come on a tour of the Palace of Westminster. That’s where I’ll be working tomorrow. You can find out about it by clicking here.

It is a fabulous place, and well worth seeing.

If the weather is fine, you could cross Westminster Bridge and head for the South Bank. Last year there was the huge sculpted fox that caught everyone’s imagination. This year, as part of the ongoing Festival of the World, it is a baobab tree made from bolts of cloth from around the globe.

Baobab Tree

So many different materials, I almost expected to find the one I have chosen for my new sofa covers.

Baobab Tree Trunk