Another November the 5th rolls round and was time to join OH for his little walk. Sadly having just returned from a lovely weeks holiday that would cause those that worry about how others have fun to combust in self righteous horror I had total camera fail due to not thinking to either change batteries or take spares so not photo’s this time. Which is a shame as the turn out was probably twice that of last years and the variations on the Guy theme are really quite not worthy.
Despite our increased numbers the local police and PCSOs didn’t feel there was any need to stop us, or check what we were up to. Though we were kept a close eye on, and the “subtle” radio conversations as we went past various buildings were barely noticeable. Due to a remembrance service recently finished in the Abbey there were an awful lot of military types around, many of whom had had the same idea as us and repaired to the Westminster Arms for some liquid refreshment. They were very tolerant of the bunch of oddly dressed nutters that wondered in off the street to join them. From the bits of other peoples conversations I over heard and the brief chats I had they were generally sympathetic to our motivations. Quite surprising how wide spread was the idea that blowing up the current incumbents of the palace of Westminster would be a good thing and should have been done years ago.
Suitably refreshed we made our way to the palace of Westminster and asked very nicely if we could visit the public gallery. The initial members of the police there didn’t seem terribly keen on this, and didn’t seem to get any keener as their numbers increased. We eventually gathered that a “task team” was being summoned to deal with us, so while they worked that out we toddled off to take a few more pictures assuring those at the gate that we’d be back shortly. Upon our return a person who I assume was the task team spoke to OH about whether we’d remove our masks or not and generally tried to not let us in and ascertain if we were dangerous or harmless nutters. They did eventually concede that we were harmless nutters so allowed us down to the security check. There there was more queuing whilst they made us each divest in turn have our photo’s taken and our belongings scanned and shut away in a cupboard.
I actually have no problems with them asking us to remove our masks and taking our photo’s all rather sensible really. But wigs were also forbidden, I do there have to wonder how good a wig has to be before you’re allowed to wear it (and how did they deal with Mo Mowlam). I’m not quite sure why they care about wigs and masks given just how bad the photo’s on your visitors pass actually are.
Where it started to get a bit more surreal was being told that cloaks aren’t allowed and neither it seems are t-shirts with slogans. As the shirt I was wearing had the hugely seditious slogan of “Remember, remember 5/11” I was informed I’d have to take it off or turn it inside out. I did ask why and was told “because“. So that’s obviously a well thought out and communicated policy. There’s no mention of this t-shirt policy on the Parliamentary website which does make me suspect somewhat that it was a special rule just for us. They did kindly let me step into a side room occupied by other officers to change my t-shirt (Though they weren’t so thoughtful when I was leaving). As Old Holborn has said the inside of the palace does look a lot like Hogwarts complete with costumed flunkies. More waiting whilst they gave us green forms to hold (we got to fill them in later rather than whilst sitting waiting) and let us upstairs 10 at a time. Half way(ish) up the various flights of stairs there was a room where we got to fill in the forms giving our name, address and notionality which we have to sign to promise to behave. It is worth noting that this information isn’t checked so do feel free to exercise your right to use an alias (For the record and for history buffs I enetered as John Johnson of White Webbs*). These forms were then collected from us at the top of the stairs but an elderly uniformed chap who wrote a number on the back and told us to hand in any bags, cameras, phones books etc. to be kept behind the desk whilst we went to the gallery. Then it was through another metal detector type arch.
The visitors gallery was more than half empty and there hadn’t been that many people past me as I went up stairs so I assume they just wanted to split the nutters up a bit. From a rough count I think there were more nutters in the public gallery than elected nutters debating the ever so important issue of climate change. After a while (and a short while at that) we decided to leave – I would recommend visiting and seeing what clothing/makeup etc. is allowable enjoy the building but if you don’t want to be utterly disillusioned about the business of the main chamber don’t bother going up to the visitors gallery.
Leaving was somewhat easier, apart from for OH and one of our number who got told of for wearing a hat. Though whilst I say somewhat easier there was a slight problem in that whilst they have procedures for taking stuff off you, they don’t really have any for you to get it back. So after a quick query we headed past the sign saying no entry and back to the first check point where a very confused looking security person let us through the door one at a time to get our stuff back (which in my case took some finding despite being in a numbered tray). Once you have your stuff back there is then no provision for you to sort your self out, turn t-shirts back the right way, put wigs back on etc.
We gradually regrouped between the entrance and the exit where those of our number who hadn’t been forced to leave stuff in the first check point game out. More photo’s especially by tourists and during the wait whilst OH was allowed to leave some people took the sensible option of heading to the pub and the two young ladies who’d come down by bus from Newcastle also wandered off unfortunately just before we regrouped. Again whilst loitering in such a fashion the idea that we might be there to blow the place up and that it should have been done years ago seemed popular amongst both a group of workman and passing military types. I begin to suspect that it really isn’t possible to over estimate how disliked those who currently sit in the palace are.
Bidding farewell to the policeman on the gate we headed back to the Westminster Arms to re-acquire people that had gone there, then back to Chandos for some well earned drinks and quite wide ranging conversations. Apart from the obvious I had some great conversations about peak oil, saunas and lawful rebellion. I also managed to get rid of most of my first batch of badges but fear not there will be more (and t-shirts). I’d heartily recommend anyone to join us next year.
Snowolf explains very well what the point of this little walk is, which is something Tom Harris still doesn’t get (I know no shock there). We go for the walk because we can and to show people that we can. I don’t go to get into trouble, and stick one to the man I go because it’s fun and because someone should. If we don’t exercise even our silliest most pointless rights then we’ll lose them. So once a year what does it harm to exercise your right to go for a gentle stroll with good company wearing a silly costume. It’s fun and you meet all sorts of people you wouldn’t otherwise. Despite what some of those that sneer at the endeavour would have you belief those attending aren’t all middle class, middle aged fat white men, and beyond some obvious points of agreement the politics are quite diverse as well.
As a final point I would observe that despite being very obviously very twitchy about a group of costumed people wandering around whitehall and wanting to visit Parliament everyone I dealt with was unfailing polite, some of them even smiled and had a sense of humour. But we definitely didn’t fit in nicely with their procedures and they were to varying degrees not terribly happy at us being there. A special mention must also go to the eastern European lady who was handing out the green forms to us, who politely informed some other visitors that the speaches would be in English as the was in fact England.
update I forgot to mention that when I joined Old Holborn for his little walk last year my aged mother (no really she is) thought I was a fool and just stirring trouble for the sake of it. Today a year a later she wished be the best of luck and was glad I was going just to exercise my right to be an idiot and hopefully remind some people that we were and still can be a free country.
Also read the comments on OH’s other post about the day. Other walkers who’ve written there experience up so far are: Billy Blofeld, Dick Puddlecote, Hairy Chesnuts (though not exactly a write up, but great person to chat to).
(I’ll update that list as I come across more reports).
Kevin Boatang thinks we’re all very silly people who’ve no understanding of the history of either Guy Fawkes or V and despite not ever having met most of us has determined we’re a “bunch of egotistical anarchists”
Leg Iron points out that the problem is many people think we’re going to get into trouble for doing nothing wrong which is a problem in itself.
Which nicely ties into the excellent article by Dun Geekin who points out that the important thing is for us to refuse to be afraid.
Almost forgot to link to Mrs Raft at the Daily politics which would have been terribly remiss of me.
Just stumlbed across Guthrums account.
Anna Raccoon recounts how the house has changed over the years she’s been visiting.
The Register are now reporting it as well. Though they didn’t publish my comment (meanies) but they did correct one of the mistakes I pointed out (The original version claimed it was the 204th Anniversary). Mind interesting that the powers that be are claiming that:
“They were admitted into the public gallery, as they were the year before when they attended.”
As we didn’t try to enter the previous year as it was PMQs and we were being stopped and searched.
Final final update honest
Not born yesterday visited the gallery twice and has a good write up of how their two visits compared.