A Friday in London

A week or so ago we travelled to London for the day, for two reasons: to renew Suzanne’s Australian passport and attend a tour of the Houses of Parliament. It was a cold day about 5°, unusual in this very mild winter, but sunny. From Blackfriars station we walked along the Embankment and up Temple Avenue where we had a coffee in Tempio’s, a pretty good basement-level restaurant run by Bruno.

At the Australian High Commission on the Strand, Suzanne had to surrender a pink comb with a long pointy bit, to the security guard. While she waited for the business to be done I made a quick walk where I had a look at St Clements RAF church, with rather small statues of Tedder and Harris flanking the approach. Richly decorated, it has much about Britain’s junior service, including many sombre rolls of honour in glass cases.

Lunchtime loomed, so we wandered around Covent Garden looking for a Turkish restaurant in Tavistock Street which we had visited a year it so ago, but to no avail; we learned later that it had closed down. Café Murano, however, provided decent Italian food served with a flourish by our waitress who took the dishes from a tray carried by a man from the kitchen staff. All much recommended.

Time was passing quite nicely towards our tour time of twenty-five past four; we took the Tube to Westminster, from which we emerged to brilliant, low afternoon sun playing on Big Ben’s facia like gold. Striking. Everywhere were crowds, throngs, selfies being taken, people staring into mobiles, hurrying office workers. But we were above all this and made our way to the entrance to the Palace of Westminster. Once in the Great Hall and sat down to wait, we gradually froze in the massive, unheated, 900-year-old chamber with hundreds of tons of wooden vaulting overhead. On the dot, we were called to a group of 18 (we were sponsored by our MP, Nadine Dorries) and off we went with Nick, our guide. Pleasant of personality, slightly bent in stature, grey-haired, about 55, he often cajoled us not to dawdle: ‘This way please, move forward, thanks so much.’ Nick explained that Westminster, a royal palace sort of leased to the Lords and Commons, is floor colour-coded to show who has sway: blue for the sovereign, red for the Lords and green for the Commons. In the debating chambers you are not allowed to sit on the benches, not even the splendid Nick, because only those MPs who have given their oath to the queen can do so, those oaths kept in the famous two dispatch boxes that frontbenchers sometimes petulantly hammer on. When I bowed my head to inspect the MPs’ pigeonholes, a frisson went through me as I read ‘Jeremy Corbyn’.

Almost two hours later, the day already advesperated, we made our cold way back to Blackfriars. Late-running as usual, the Thameslink train managed to get us to Flitwick.


Thought for the (or any) day: Better to be insufficiently clear than to be, insufficiently.