Now that we have a new leader of the Labour Party, the time seems right to tell you about the adventures of a future leader of the Conservative Party (sorry, dear deceased Labourite Granddads). Tory Boy came back from his two weeks in Westminster declaring that it was the best fortnight of his life. Highlights appear to have been: access to a huge bedroom for the first time in two years (his guest room; not anyone else’s); an excellent transport system (45 minutes from Wimbledon to Westminster via bus, train & two tubes); and the Pope’s back.
We’ll dispense with the Pope first (no jokes, please; respect the fact that my Nan was a Catholic and always displayed a photograph of the latest one in her home). TB sent us a text to say he was standing right behind the Popemobile and could see His Holiness’s back. It was an historic first Papal State visit to Britain, so I suppose it was worth a text. Tory Boy had a pass which enabled him to get close enough to see the arrival at Westminster Hall. I don’t begrudge him his little witness of history, even if he is an atheist.
TB tells me that Westminster is like Hogwarts: corridors go off in all directions and people disappear down them and are never heard of again. He worked in the old Scotland Yard building. He was given a tour of the Commons and the Lords and he says they were beautiful but small. He found the Queen’s throne ‘stunning’ and was surprised to learn that it stayed there permanently; I don’t know why he was surprised: someone would notice if you turned up at the front door with a moving van. I hope. The Speaker’s Chair was a gift from New Zealand. The doors behind the Speaker were donated by India. Much more of this and we’ll be hearing next that the Queen’s Speech is brought to you by the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis: Come stay with us; we’ll move a mountain to give you the earth.
The four patron saints of the UK are depicted on stained glass windows in the lobby. Legend has it that St George leads to the Lords, because every Englishman aspires to be a Lord; St David leads to the Commons, because the Welsh yabber on; St Andrew leads to the bars, because the Scots like to drink; and St Patrick leads to the exit, because every Irishman wants out of England. It’s heartening to know that racial stereotypes are alive and well in our nation’s seat of government.
Tory Boy told us that, contrary to popular belief, St Stephen’s Chapel is not a chapel, but a hall. Thanks for clearing that up, son. There is a myth that the section of floor tile that doesn’t match is the spot where Percival Spencer was assassinated. Coughing noises and blank looks elicited the information that PS was the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. That was news to me: I’d never heard of him, or even that we lost one. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I Googled his name for an image, I discovered that I hadn’t been paying attention and it was, in fact, Spencer Perceval. I’m embarrassed to admit that I could probably name more American presidents than British Prime Ministers – though I can name every monarch in reverse order, going back to Henry VII. (If you want to read a funny story about the Queen, go to this).
Tory Boy spent most of his time doing research but couldn’t say into what; he did other things as well, but couldn’t say what they were, either. If it’s a matter of confidentiality, they’ve got the right boy: this is a child who, from the age of seven, when I collected him from school and asked him about his day, preferred to tell me that he ‘couldn’t remember’ than share even the tiniest piece of his life with me. He did tell us (we’re back in 2010) that he did case work, dealing with his particular MP’s constituents’ problems but, of course, he couldn’t tell us what they were…I can see having a son at the heart of government is going to be as much use to me as a bottle of bleach in a dirty kitchen.
The days were as long as he wanted them to be, and some were longer than others; but he did make time to visit the Globe at the weekend, as I have previously mentioned. By the way, his comment that ”Falstaff gave me an apple” was as accurate as an MP’s expense claim: what really happened was that a number of apples rolled off Bardolph’s head and off the stage; one made its way into Tory Boy’s pocket, via his grabbing hand. The boy was born to be a politician.
He fulfilled a lifetime ambition to re-create a scene from Bedknobs and Broomsticks: he walked down Portobello Road. He bought a couple of books from a charity shop. Before you get to thinking that TB needs to get a life, he also went to the opening of a think tank and to a wine tasting.
He was taken to the wine tasting by his kind host, who works in that field. Check out his blog. It was held in the Vintners’ Hall, one of the oldest buildings in London; and the first to be reconstructed after the fire of 1666. TB said the building was fabulous, with Thirteenth Century tapestries hanging on the walls and even an Eighteenth Century Samurai sword (which seems an odd thing to leave lying around for a bunch of winos to get their hands on). Every Mayor of London leaves a gift in the Court Room; gifts date back to the 1700s.
Tory Boy knows all this because he was given a tour. Tours are not given to the public in the Vintners’ Hall but Tory Boy decided to just ask someone who worked there; and that kind person obliged. Perhaps it was all the wine floating around. Talking of which, TB’s host gave him a crash course in wine tasting and the first thing Tory Boy did was spy out every bottle of wine costing more than £30 and taste only those. My son will go far in politics; I just know it.
Perhaps it was the wine; perhaps it was the double Pusser’s Rum at work; perhaps it was the excitement; perhaps it was the hard work; but his sleep issues disappeared overnight. He was in bed by nine most nights and asleep soon after.
Remember when I told you he was going to Westminster and I said he was running the country? I may have exaggerated, but only a little. His MP was promoted on Tory Boy’s last day: clearly, TB is a man of influence. It’s nothing to do with us, of course; but his hosts, who were wonderful to him, and with whom he hopes to stay in touch. He couldn’t stop praising them. I bet he told them what he did at school when he was seven.