Middle Aged Blues

You know it’s not going to be a good day when it starts by bashing your head on the shower door, getting shampoo in your eye, and then having to stand and rinse your hair for ages because the new conditioner the hotel provides smells like drain cleaner.

But I ventured out of my hotel nevertheless, bright and early, and walked across Westminster Bridge for my first ever visit to the Houses of Parliament. I’ve been in Portcullis House before, but not the actual iconic building itself.

The invitation said allow “up to” half an hour to get through security. I thought that didn’t sound right – I thought I’d heard somewhere that you have to allow at least an hour? But anyway I was a prudent ten minutes earlier than the half hour mark, and joined the long, long, looooooong queue to get through security and go in.

I stood in the queue. I tweeted humorously about the “trial by ordeal” of queueing for a hundred yards on a walkway suspended over a lawn that was in the process of being cut – hay fever city! I took, and tweeted, a picture of the statue of Cromwell (caption: “for god’s sake, go!”) I waited, and waited, and the clock got nearer and nearer to ten o’clock when the debate was due to start…

I was heartened to see former colleagues from ARC a mere ten or twelve yards in front of me. I mean, they were hosting the event, so I couldn’t be THAT late, right?

They got through the security door and vanished. I shuffled the last, slow, few feet, and then found myself inside…

… where there was a whole OTHER queue, to go through airport security-style metal detector security.

So I put my handbag and my jacket in one tray and my mobile in another, and passed through the arch…

…which went off. So the man waved his wand over my arms and legs and wasn’t happy. I was racking my brains to think what was I wearing or carrying that might make the machines go beep. The attendant called a female attendant, who patted me down. Baffled but apparently reassured by this bit of theatre, they let me through….

… where, unsupervised, I wandered around to the ACTUAL visitor’s entrance, as opposed to the security theatre entrance which was a mere out building.

Which is fine of course, but at this point it was 10am and I was officially in danger of being Late, and I still had no idea where Committee Room 14 might be found. So I stood in the vast marbled hall and panicked, and then found a person with a photo id who indicated the vast staircase at the end of the hall.

A vast staircase without a handrail is… interesting. I wouldn’t have minded, but I then had to turn left and limp down a long corridor… to another staircase. And another. And another. I was so miffed I actually counted them on the way out. I’m sorry, but 88 steps requires advanced notice, or a lift. (I gather there was a lift. But no-one to point you toward it. And I was late anyway)

I was late. I wasn’t the last (the esteemed editor of Taxation magazine and various other luminaries arrived later). But I got a good old attack of “side eye” from A Certain Former Official Of My Former Union Who Were Organising The Event, Who Had Been Ahead Of Me In The Queue. Reader, if looks could kill he’d be a teeny tiny pile of ashes on the carpet!

And then they began. The chairwoman had a lovely audible voice. And a microphone. Directly in front of her.

The other speakers… had a mike between each pair. Now, this CAN work… if the speakers USE the mike. Either move the mike in front of you when you speak, or else simply move yourself TO the mike. But if you sit and politely do nothing, hoping the mike might pick up your voice through sympathetic magic, then the middle aged fat lady at the back of the room will be tweeting furiously that she can’t hear you and USE the mike and other people will be tweeting back to her that they don’t think the mikes are actually ON.

It’s a good thing it was an interesting debate, because I had the kind of day where you start by bashing your head on the shower door handle, and end it by picking a sandwich off the vegetarian platter and finding you’ve bitten into… a chicken wrap.

Still, at least I didn’t actually throw up on anyone’s shoes.

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