Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gunpowder, treason and plot

I was at the Houses of Parliament earlier this week, for a work-related thing.  I'd never been there before so it was all terribly exciting.

The instructions they sent me said "allow AT LEAST 45 minutes to get through security".  So I obediently got there an hour before my meeting was due to start, expecting to be queueing in the rain for ages.


There was no queue.

There was a helpful security lady dishing out lanyard clippy pass-holder things outside, so that once I got in there all I had to do was clip the newly-aquired photo pass to it and hang it round my neck. 

Through the security checks, into the main body of the building.  Pause to gawp at fabulous architecture like the potato-headed yokel that I am, then continue through to ask another security chap where the room that my meeting is in is.  Get given vague "down that way" directions.  Nod sagely. 

Ask if it's ok to take photos.

Yes it is, but only "down there".  I go "down there" and take a couple of pictures on my iPhone (it does everything.) 

After that point, no more photography, sadly. 

I found where I was supposed to be, and asked the stern security lady if I could go in, bearing in mind I was over 30 minutes early (security being so much more efficient than we had been led to believe.)

She said No.

Go and wait Over There.

I went Over There and waited, admiring the beautiful painted panels on the walls.  Gradually, more and more people arrived, walked through to the scary security lady, were told the same thing, and perched meekly on the leather benches to wait for the call.  A cheery looking chap opposite me caught my eye and smiled.  I smiled back.  He came and sat next to me and struck up an amusing conversation about what would happen if we all headed for the meeting room*.

He asked me if I was going to "this thing", waving vaguely in the direction of the meeting room.  I said yes, I was.  Well, it was true.

The crowd of people waiting had grown, so we headed into the lobby area to be sure to hear when we got the call to go into the meeting room. It was rather exciting**.

Finally, FINALLY, with 2 minutes to go, we were told it was ok to go through to the meeting room. In the confusion I lost sight of my new buddy, but followed everyone else, hung my coat up in a v posh coat cupboard, and went into the meeting room.


What's this?

Lots of information about security systems? Posters for a variety of specialist Universities? Not a soul here I recognise? How odd.

But look....there are cakes! And tea! And nice friendly staff who want me to have some!

So I had a glass of fizzy water, and stood there like a lemon, hoping someone I knew would walk in. After a few minutes, it was clear that nobody I knew was going to walk in. In fact, I was the only woman in the room, which is unusual at meetings these days.


I was in the wrong meeting. I could have stuck around and enlarged my woefully thin knowledge of high-tech security systems, but I thought I might have been thrown in the Thames as spy, and decided I ought to leave.

Muttering "fuckfuckfuckfuck" to myself I slunk out, sweating at the thought of wandering the Houses of Parliament like a lost soul, bleating and panicking.

Fortunately, MY meeting was in the room next door, and it was a big, informal standy-uppy affair, so I could sidle in, grab a cup of tea and pretend I had been there all the time.

The walk back to Waterloo provided a couple of nice photo opportunities:

Please note the moon this time.

This is a profile view.

I thought it was rather nice to have been where Guy Fawkes was this week, all those years ago. Well, in the same approximate location, at least.

*We agreed that it would certainly end in a machine-gunning, and decided to stay put.

**I don't get out much


B.E. Earl said...

I was trying to figure out where Guy Fawkes was gonna come into play here.

Then I looked at a calendar. Duh.

(We Americans only know the rhyme from Alan Moore's Watchmen, I'm afraid)

Isabella Golightly said...

ooooh, lucky you. Never been to the H of P, maybe next year when I'm in London (will you be free for coffee??) we can wander in!

@eloh said...

How very exciting. Made all the more exciting that you started out the day in the wrong meeting.

Spen said...

Did you take some of the cakes from the wrong meeting with you or were you afraid they had been iced with a tracer frosting which would trigger an alarm as you tried to sneak them out? Yes, I too have an overactive imagination :)

livesbythewoods said...

Earl, yes, it's a very British thing, I think. Thank goodness for the educational quality of graphic novels!

Isabella, you can wander in but you need to go through airport style security first. But tea, coffee, buns, whatever sounds good.

Eloh, it would have been more exciting had I felt less like a halfwit. But the meeting was interesting. And there were sticky buns on offer.

Spence, I thought about it, but I was in a stupid suit with small pockets. Even an eclair would have been too big to smuggle out. Next time I'm taking Great Escape style trousers that I can stuff with stolen pastries.