Friday, November 25, 2011

Knowledge and Power

Meaning we went to Parliament and the Library.

First off:  Parliament!  It used to be a medieval castle for one o' them early kings, and the oldest part is the great hall which still has the original roof.  During WWII, the building was burning during the Blitz and Churchill told people to save the hall instead of the House of Commons because the hall was older.  From there we followed our guide through the central hall (there are mosaics of the 4 patron saints of the UK on the roof) to the place where the Queen comes in (all of the halls and rooms are really nicely furnished, shock as that may be, but I wasn't allowed to take pictures except in the hall, even of the reigning monarch's portraits which get moved down as they're each replaced) and followed the path she takes when she visits Parliament. We saw the House of Lords and where they stand when they vote (on something that's not a clear majority vote--basically, if they can't instantly tell by a raise of hands, they call a 7-minute recess or something, ring a bell, and at the end of that seven minutes you'd better be on the yea or nay side of the hall or you're locked out and don't get to vote; they then count everyone going back in on each side and who you are for records of who voted which side, and thus get a tally of votes) and where the woolsack is to remind everyone just where the wealth of the country started.  Yep, sheep.  We then went to the House of Commons.  Guess what--the queen is not allowed.  The one place the queen is forbidden by law to go.  It's a lot like the House of Lords, just a bit simpler and one is green and the other red.  I'm pretty sure the House of Commons was the green one.  Story time!

When the constitutional monarchy was installed, the people wanted to be sure the monarchs remembered the fact that they were in charge.  The common people, as in.  You know, the ones in the House of Commons.  So they banned the monarchs from the House of Commons chambers/whole side of Parliament.  When the current reigning monarch comes to parliament, she gets to the House of Lords and can't go further, but she needs the rest of the people there before she delivers her address, so there's a guy in black who goes to the House of Commons for her.  And as soon as the door guards see him coming, they slam the door.  In his face.  Very abruptly.  Yay, English customs!  So the guy picks up his stick and knocks on the door.  And by knocks I mean picks up his stick and heaves it into the door (he's got a grip on it halfway up and pounds the end into the door hard enough to leave a dent, and you can see the spots where he missed) saying "For God, for Queen, and for Country!"  (Italics equals pound on the door.)  So they open the door and mosey on down to the House of Lords--they do it slowly because, hey look, they're important and the queen has to wait for them.  Kind of an "eat it, monarchs!" gesture.

Story time's over, folks.

But that's okay, I found more stories.  And they're awesome.

See, the British Library, which is by the way awesome and I only saw a little bit of it, has this room called the "treasure room" which has awesome stuff in it.  There were at least 10 illuminated Gospels, including the Lindisfarne gospels, several copies of other religious texts from most religions across the world.  (No copies of the Book of Mormon, though...), Chinese manuscripts of ancient legends, sketchbooks of naturalists, a book with a handwritten score of The Messiah, and so on--a room full of this stuff.  Also voice recordings, like Seamus Heaney or Virginia Woolf or Tennessee Williams, and the Beatles case with some of the original songs, including the first draft of Yesterday, and a panel on the side with several of their songs and this .

That.  That was awesome.  I love that room so much right now.


  1. That sounds really cool and interesting. You are having so much fun and they and trying to hid learning under it. :)