Last Friday FIE scheduled a Parliament tour for random assortments of students enrolled in the program for spring semester. Four of us from UF were scheduled for Friday, hence my not being in Paris this weekend. Nevertheless, Parliament tours are quite difficult to do if you’re not in a group like a university (and you have to pay for it).
So naturally I went on the free tour. To begin we went through airport-like security (shoes remained on) and they printed out ID tags with your picture on it (I was attempting to fix my hair when she snapped so my hand awkwardly cupping my ear will forever live in the recycle bins of Parliament). The actual tour was really interesting and definitely something I’d recommend. However, you weren’t allowed to take any pictures save for in Westminster Hall which was cold and grey and nowhere near as pretty the rest of the building (and not lit well enough for your backup camera, the iPhone). Everything was opulently decorated in a mix of gothic and medieval styles with the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh symbols or patron Saints interwoven in the tiles, plaques, and statues.
The paintings all throughout the building were beautiful and I really wish I could have snapped a picture of Queen Victoria looking better than most of her other portraits (I’m thinking this was when Albert was still alive but she still hadn’t popped out nine kids yet). Also there were sweet portraits of the Tudors which naturally included Henry VII and all six of his wives. Henry appeared to have no shoes on in his picture. Again I wanted a camera desperately to capture the silliness of an obese red-headed (why is he never portrayed as a red-head in pop culture?) man in tights and no shoes. Our guide took us throughout the most important sections on the building such as the Queen’s Robing room (picture compliments of Wikipedia) where she dons the crown jewels before opening up Parliament for the year. We also saw the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In both rooms, we were not allowed to sit on the seats that are quite literally filling the entire rooms. I tuned out the guide at one point because a group of elderly tourist tried to sit on them and the security made them stand up. Their guide eventually convinced the security guard to allow the man with the can and the woman who could quite possibly be tipped over by simply walking past her to sit on the seats that are literally sat on everyday members of Parliament. All in all it was a lovely tour (stalking the group of sailors in the tour behind us wasn’t bad either…).
Well the reason I saved Parliament for a separate post was, as the title suggests, I wanted to watch V for Vendetta. In sum, in a dystopian version of the future a man who wears a Guy Fawkes mask tries to rally the people of London to overthrow the oppressive High Chancellor that now leads the country. In true Guy Fawkesian (I believe that is the second word this week to which I’ve incorrectly added an “-ian” suffix) fashion, he blows up the Palace of Westminster (which is the formal name of the Parliament building). I love this movie, but I also love dystopian stories (don’t get me started on joys of The Hunger Games). Throw in a ton of symbolism and a catchy poem to open and you might as well win all the Oscars in my book. While watching the film after the tour, I couldn’t help but think of how all those pretty paintings I enjoyed so much would either be blown up in V’s world or, more likely, already destroyed (unless V, or perhaps Gordon, managed to acquire a few for their homes full illicit things). This made me quite sad, especially for the flattering portrait of Victoria and the absurd one of Henry.
Also I’ve learned recently that London has more CCTV cameras than Beijing (they’re much less conspicuous, however). Notions of Big Brother watching always make this sort of dictatorship society seem almost too near in the future. Nevertheless, I highly doubt the UK or even the world will become V’s world anyone soon but it makes you think a bit doesn’t it? On that note I’ll leave you with some advice for a better future: recycle that Natty can tonight and don’t elect a dictator. Until then,