Well! Goodness me!
I am writing this on my knee sat on the pedestal of a kind of column outside Portcullis House at the Houses of Parliament.
Two heavily armed (and very friendly) policemen are standing beside me – not that this infers any misdeed on my part, rather they are keeping a close eye on Westminster Bridge which was the scene of the tragic attack back in March.
They are an all too clear sign of the times we live in.
A week ago – tired like I never knew before – I took the red-eye special 7am easyJet to Gatwick, by train and underground to Westminster tube station.
There I stepped quickly up into the bright sunlight, noted the broad Thames and its boats in front of me, and then glanced to my right. Blimey! Then the full enormity of it all hit me – Big Ben! What a process.
One thing after another, my pass, my (many) pins and passwords, an introduction to the library, a risk walk hither and thither, a coffee, then more introductions and directions.
My “buddy” Charlotte, a member of the parliamentary staff, was really splendid. Nothing was too much trouble.
“Jamie” she murmured in my ear in Central Lobby “That gentleman is David Natzler, the Clerk of the House. I am just going to introduce you...”
“Sorry, what seat are you the new member for?”
“Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross...” (I very nearly added “sir”)
“Do you live in Caithness?”
“No, I live in Tain.”
“Tain? Tain - no - do you really? Does the Reverend Thompson ring a bell at all with you? Back in the1970s?”
I confessed that it did. He was the extremely nice parish minister in Tain who had died young. Still missed and remembered.
“I am married to his daughter... What did you say your name was again? Jamie. Got it.”
Later, and quite in the passing, he cheerfully addressed me by my Christian name. As other new and old members noted this with some surprise, I had one of those “yeeessss!” moments that only go to show what a child I remain at heart.
Sorry about that, dear readers!
“Have you seen the carved wooden postboxes yet?” asked Sue who helps run the fags and lottery kiosk in Tain’s Asda. I said that I had. Charlotte had made a point of showing them to me.
“Well my husband made them. Or at least he and his furniture students did. The Speaker said a special thank you to him.”
Goodness me! I am now sitting in the Chamber waiting for Black Rod to summon us to hear the Queen’s Speech. The noise around me is becoming ever greater. Finally my mind strays to Tain’s Lidl last Sunday. Tall Will was on the checkout. “I’m doing something special for you, Jamie,” he said.
“Seeing as how you are always such a good customer, I have put a request in to find out the nearest Lidl to Westminster so you can go on shopping with us.”
That has touched me so much – and made me smile too. A Highlander has come to London.
Whoops, Rod is here!