Parliament, People, and the Dalai Lama

First post, first post, la la la. I really should make this some kind of introduction, but I want to tell you about my day instead, so that will have to wait. If you’re desperate to learn about me, then there’s an About page here.

Today I went to the Palace of Westminster with school. A small trip (there were only seven of us, with two teachers) that very nearly didn’t go ahead due to conflicting nonsense turned out to be one of my favourite school trips in a very long time.

First things first, I bloody love London. I really really love it. Whilst generally considering myself an introvert when it comes to actually interacting with people, there’s something about being round them in big crowds that makes me very happy. Why? I’m not really sure, but it’s like…the fact is that I will most likely never ever see any of these people again, and if I do I almost certainly won’t recognise them. But, when I leave this room, their lives will carry on, and the tiny part that they played in it will eventually be forgotten, because it didn’t have any interest to my memory. But in THEIR minds, it’s ME that’s the tiny part, and the stories of their own lives will continue. Maybe I didn’t explain that brilliantly, but it’s just something I like. I’d much prefer to live in a big city than in the countryside.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. We got to Westminster (he says, blocking another incoming rant about how awesome the Underground is) and we met our guide, an American lady named Dianne, who was very enthusiastic and very nice. Our first stop (after dropping off all our phones and bags; security etc.) was the central lobby, where we waited for John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to come through. He has a big procession, and everyone has to take off their hats; much like the majority of our political system, it’s a small quirky tradition. So we saw the surprisingly short Bercow (who is probably my favourite Tory, though that’s not saying much), who then went straight into the Commons to deal with Prime Minister’s Questions, which is the biggest thing in Parliament every week. Sadly, we didn’t get to see it, but DavCam wasn’t there anyway, so it wasn’t likely to be the most interesting session.

Next, we got to see the House of Lords, which was still pretty exciting. When you go to Westminster, there are two very important rules. Firstly, do not sit on the seats in either House, because if you’re not a Member or a Lord, they will be pissed off. Also, don’t die. Whilst it’s not illegal, as wrongly suggests a long-circulating myth, you are eligible for a state-funded funeral, so if you cause the government that expense they are not likely to be happy. Indeed, people in the throes of a heart attack have been carried out onto the street to die, to avoid this from occurring. Pretty cold-hearted, but that’s what you get with a house of politicians.

We did the rest of the tour, which was interesting to look at but doesn’t make for great  reading, so I’ll skip over to the next bit, and this is truly amazing. We were leaving Westminster Hall (pictured to the right, and wow is it impressive), when a policeman stopped us just at the exit.

“You can’t leave just now, I’m afraid, we’ve got someone coming through and you’ll have to make way.”

Dianne, a little indignantly: “Who’s coming through?”

Him: “Oh, the Dalai Lama.”

Not even joking. We get out of the way, because that’s what you do when it’s the Dalai Freaking Lama, and then he walks in. You know on the telly, when he’s always smiling at everyone and being happy all the time, because that’s sort of his job? That’s exactly what he was like. He walked past us smiling, then he stopped and came over to us. He looked at a girl in our group, Becca, who has red hair, and after a pause, said to her, “I like your hair.” Nobody was quite sure how to respond to that, but he gave a little laugh, and we kind of couldn’t help but laugh with him. Not in a forced way, you understand; it was genuine laughter, and he was rather infectious in spreading it. He shook a couple of hands, and then went on his way. We met the Dalai Lama! Oh hell, it was so cool. He’s basically my favourite religious leader (again, like the favourite Tories, it’s not a great list to pick from), and that brief encounter was just really nice. Much like the strangers in the city crowds, we were just a small part of his life, but we’ll be remembering that for a while, I bet. Imagine having the power to do that with every single person you meet, like he does.

Afterwards we headed to a workshop, which was good fun, and then we had twenty minutes with our MP. Now, for some reason, nobody else could think of a question for her, so I kept having to jump in and fill that awkward silence with different things. At the same time, I kind of made it awkward by being literally the only one asking stuff, but it was the lesser of two awkwards. We got some good debate out of it (she’s a Tory, and I am not), and I suppose she wasn’t too bad, if a little posh. Interesting to talk to, though.

That was the end of the tour, so we spent a little time around London before we got the train back home. Man, I could live in London if it weren’t so expensive. But I won’t go on about that again.

So that was my day of Parliamentary fun. I just crossed one thousand words, which is useful because there’s also one picture in this entry, which means there’s a total of two thousand. That’s worth something, I guess.

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10 thoughts on “Parliament, People, and the Dalai Lama

  1. Great first blog entry!

    I really like your observations about the way that people’s lives intertwine, albeit briefly, and then life carries on – but all those interactions, no matter how small, add up to the sum of a person’s life experience.

    I’ve often had similar thoughts about this when driving – all those people in their boxes, glancing across at each other, fleeting contact, where have they come from, where are they going …

    • It’s one of my favourite things to think about. Two fiction books that you might like that explore this topic are Ghostwritten by David Mitchell (not that one/yes, that one) and Eleven by Mark Watson. Both are excellent, and take interesting views on the idea. Highly recommended.

      • Well, I finally got round to reading Ghostwritten and Eleven … just finished the latter sitting here at my son’s guitar lesson (Foo Fighters ‘Monkey Wrench’ tonight). Wow, what can I say … brilliant, thought provoking, funny, sad. Thank you so much for the recommendations :)

        Ghostwritten was excellent too … struggled with it in places, but loved the way it unfolded and intertwined. Some chapters I was glad to finish, others I felt a sense of loss as we moved on to another time, place and person, but always smiled when I found a link back to previous events.

        Any more recommendations? :)

        • Oh, you read them!! How wonderful. I agree with your thoughts on Ghostwritten; it can definitely get difficult, especially the final few parts. And I felt the same kind of loss – some chapters I just never wanted to move away from, never wanted to end.

          As for other books…I can’t think of anything with quite the same ideas as those two (the intertwining of lives, which started this off) but Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” gives a good fantasy-ish glimpse to a whole other world that occupies the fringes of our own. Really great adventure. If you prefer your fiction a little more realistic, I have heard that Mark Watson (he of “Eleven”) has a new book called The Knot, which those that have read it say is just as excellent. I haven’t got a hold of it just yet…it’s on my Christmas list though, so fingers crossed ;)

  2. I visited Amazon and got the samples for my Kindle as soon as you recommended them (this is one of the things I love about my Kindle). Read the samples and was hooked.

    The first chapter of ‘The Knot’ is included with the Kindle version of Eleven – I’m in the post good book blues phase at the moment so haven’t read it yet. I always find that after a couple of good books – I struggle to get into anything else for a few days.

    Hope that Christmas brings you good things :)

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