The day we were able to visit the Houses of Parliament ... Oh, and while I remember, could you all give a bit shout-out to Javier, please. Thank you, Javier! - Javier was our guide, and patiently put up with my ooh-ing, ahh-ing, my meditating, my slowness, my looking, my dreaming.
He and the Builder allowed me to stand and "just imagine ....". Often.
There was, after all, a lot to 'just imagine'.
I stood at the Dispatch Box, where we see our Prime Minister standing each week to answer Prime Minister's Questions. I stood and quietly said,
"Just imagine .... Winston Churchill stood here. Right here where I'm standing, he stood and spoke to his fellow MPs of the dire situation our nation was facing. In previous years, he'd spoken of the dreadful threat of fascism, of Britain's love of liberty and of the need to fight for it - to the death, if necessary. Some wished he'd stop rambling on about dangers from without, and dangers from within, and live and let live and let everyone get on with their lives in peace. Yes, some wished that. I'm guessing he wished he could too, but the truth had to be spoken, and right there where I stood - on that very spot, at that very table - Churchill had stood."
"Just imagine," I said to the Builder, "I am standing exactly where he stood. Right here."
And after the imagining, my mind went to times I remembered.
"Maggie stood right here when she proclaimed, 'I'm enjoying this!' ". Javier was too young to have remembered, and I'm not sure Maggie's last stand against socialism is too often talked about in his office! The Builder smiled indulgently.
"Yes, darling. I've seen that ... Yep, she stood right there."
It is strange to stand in the very place where history has been made, and where it continues to be made. I wished I could have stayed for as long as I wished. On my own. I'm sure I'd have felt ready to leave at some stage - maybe sometime before dark .... Well, we will never know how long I'd have wished to stay, because we had to move on to see other parts of this strikingly beautiful building.
First, its sense of history strikes you.
Then, its beauty strikes you.
Finally, the size strikes you. The Chamber of the House of Commons is so small. The politicians that shout at each other across the chamber are only yards from each other. How can they be so rude!
I could see in my mind's eye Sir Geoffrey giving his resignation speech. 'Right there,' I pointed. 'That's where he was when he stood to speak'.
I could see Dennis Skinner, in his own seat. In my mind's eye, he was still on the Government side of the House.
I could see our own MP, Angus Brendon McNeill, and where he sits.
I could see the House of Commons when it's 'standing room only', and hear the commotion of PMQs.
Can you tell I loved being there? Yes, I thought you probably could!
And the distance between the House of Commons and the House of Lords is so short. The door to the Commons, with its damage, caused by the Mace knocking to call the 'Commoners' to hear the Queen's speech.
When the Monarch speaks at the State Opening of Parliament each year, all are called to attend His, or Her Majesty. To make a point, the House of Commons closes its doors to say, in effect, 'Nobody tells us what to do'. Parliament is supreme you see. The members of the House of Commons then come through to the Lords' Chamber to hear the Queen's Speech. You may have seen them on television, dawdling in - again making the point that 'we will come in our time. No monarch will tell us what to do.'
Silly traditions?? Some say so, but each element is there for a reason. I don't think the fact of the supremacy of parliament is 'silly'. There is no harm, then, in keeping the quaint ways of showing it.
And there it all is, wrapped together in that wonderful building. No wonder our politicians are in danger of living 'in a bubble'. It really is another world in there. A world I was happy to visit. A world I'd visit again and again if I had the opportunity. Indeed, it's a world in which I'd love to get lost ... If only the Builder and Javier would wander off somewhere and leave me.
Oh well, that wasn't to be, so it's back to reality.
The only part of the building in which we were allowed to take photos was Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster. Westminster Hall dates back to the time of William II.
Our Queen has addressed the members of both Houses here - the House of Commons and the House of Lords - a number of times, including at the time of her Silver Anniversary, her Golden Anniversary and, most recently, at her Diamond Anniversary.
President Obama has also stood where I stood to take the photo and addressed the two Houses, as has Nelson Mandela.
I think the latest person to be given this honour is Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader.
Monarchs and the queens of monarchs have lain in state here, and Sir Winston Churchill's body lay here in state before his funeral.
So much has happened right here. The trials of Charles I took place here, and of William Wallace who was, interestingly, charged with being a Scottish Patriot. He was not charged with treason as others were.
As I say, so much history; so much to interest, but more on this day of our holiday in the next post.
(Are you tempted yet to visit London?!)