A sad week and two days in Parliament

Hello, all. This has been quite a difficult week for me and my family. After a sudden recurrence of cancer, my grandmother passed away this morning. She was 79.

I am returning to the United States tomorrow, assuming the non-intervention of this enormous blizzard, to be with my family. Being across the ocean as this sad situation played out over the last week was very difficult, but I’m sure it has been much tougher on my mom and her family. She is at peace now, and we can take some comfort in that.

Amidst this chaos I did do a few Britishy things. Specifically, I visited Parliament on two consecutive days — Tuesday with my London Architecture class and Wednesday with my History of Parliament class. This was actually kind of neat, as we got two different takes on the same material (my history professor helpfully muttering to all of us after each cute story from the tour guide that its contents were “complete nonsense”). On Tuesday they were debating the gay marriage bill in the House of Commons, which we couldn’t see but was still very cool to be near. We were also taken up on the roof which presented some spectacular and rarely-seen views of Big Ben.

Big Ben up close and personal

Big Ben up close and personal

The second tour gave us the chance to enter both the House of Lords (very ornate) and the House of Commons (much less so). Neither room has the capacity to seat the entire house (only about 450 of the 650 MPs could squeeze into the Commons if necessary) and so we actually encountered an MP putting her name on a seat for the Prime Minister’s Questions that would take place later that day. The entrance to the Commons chamber is guarded by a spectacular statue of Churchill — hands on hips, gut sticking out — but sadly no pictures were allowed past Westminster Hall (the oldest part of Parliament, constructed by William II around 1090 and the location of the trial of Charles I, among others).

Another roof shot.

Another roof shot

Wednesday afternoon I visited the British Museum for the first time, partly because I will be writing about it for my London Architecture class. I had forgotten just how much I loved ancient Egypt as a kid (and apparently I still do), spending about an hour in that section and another hour with the ancient Greeks. Cool to see the Elgin Marbles, which were accompanied by helpful leaflets from the museum explaining why there is no way in hell the Brits are giving them back to the Greeks. I also met this fun statue of the Egyptian falcon god Horus, who I am now convinced is my spirit animal.

The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form, so if anyone would like to make me King of Egypt I can submit this photograph as evidence

The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form, so if anyone would like to make me King of Egypt I can submit this photograph as evidence

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. I just got back from venturing out to see Silver Linings Playbook — the only serious Oscar contender other than Argo that I have yet to see — so perhaps I will report soon on the strangeness of English cinema. Otherwise, a bit of packing and journey planning tonight. Tomorrow I will be flying to Philadelphia on British Airways and will be back in America for a week, which will be very strange in its own right. I am looking forward to being home and seeing my family again.

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