A torrential thunderstorm woke me at 3am.
After that I slept fitfully before calling it a day, so to speak, and prepared myself to head early to Westminster.
As I carefully double-locked my Tain cousin Helen’s flat (she has gone to Canada to visit her brother) I noted the wind that had got up. It was as well that I was going by tube rather than walking.
When I arrived at Westminster...
But first a note.
“Westminster tube station is one of the main locations Harry Potter uses when travelling in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and had to be enclosed to the public for an entire day during filming.”
Didn’t know that.
“Hogwarts-on-Thames” a waggish Labour MP quipped to me “That’s what it’s like for new boys like you.”
He had a point. I do indeed have my own sword hook, complete with a purple ribbon, to hang up my sword when I next bring it down from Tain (with EasyJet’s permission), so in a way finding an unexpected feature of Westminster tube station didn’t come as a huge surprise. You see it has its own platform 9 3/4.
Had I gone entirely mad?
Sharp left after the ticket barrier, head for the entrance through which you can see the Thames, and then suddenly turn right into a narrow tunnel which you might easily miss as you walk past, curve further right with the tunnel itself, and there before me was... except it wasn’t. No revolving glass door with policemen on the other side at all. Just a blank wall.
The special underground entrance to the heart of the Palace of Westminster, the one I had only just found out about, like the Macavity the Mystery Cat, at half six in the morning it simply wasn’t there.
“Oh, damn. Of course they don’t unlock until seven. Other way lads!”
I turned to see three cops, empty pistol holsters rattling at their sides, going back the way we had all come. I turned and looked at the wall in front of me again. Then I noticed that it was made of steel and had a Houses of Parliament portcullis on it. Aha.
I emerged into the daylight and went to the main entrance opposite the Thames. It was locked too. So I admitted defeat and went and bought a latte and a pot of granola yoghurt.
Sitting opposite the magnificent bronze statue of Boudica and her Daughters (and her wild rearing horses too) I breakfasted al fresco and opened the paper. Then I saw the picture.
Great God, that poor wretched girl. Who would be so flint-hearted, who would not be moved? Her expression says it all.
“A young Isis member captured in the ruins of Mosul is believed to be a German schoolgirl who was lured into joining the jihadists a year ago by specialist recruiters who target vulnerable western teenagers.
“Linda Wendell, now 16, from Pulsnitz near Dresden, told her parents in July last year that she was going to spend the weekend with a friend but instead...”
Sometimes a picture is far stronger than words, and the photograph of her looking lost, hopeless and in despair, is incredibly powerful. This week it has stayed in my mind. She’s only a kid. What wickedness there is in this world.
They opened the doors at seven - and at ten to eight I joined a small and cheerful queue outside the Chamber of the House of Commons. We were queuing for our prayer cards.
At eight the Chamber is opened and on a low table on the left, on the Government side of the House, are set out the cards. In my turn I picked one up, wrote my name on it, and walked and placed it in a slot in the part of the bench where I like to sit. This in the third out of five tiered benches on the Opposition side – diagonally behind the “Beast of Bolsover”, Labour’s veteran Dennis Skinner.
The prayer card books your place for prayers at the start of the business, and woe betide an MP who places a prayer card, and then fails to turn up for prayers. It would put you in the Speaker’s seriously black book.
Linda Wendell’s picture cleared my mind this week.
Midst hidden doors, sword hooks, queuing for prayer cards, it absolutely reminded me what people in elected positions are there to do – to make things better for others.
No bible-thumper me, but that poor girl was in my prayers. Thank God she’s alive and has the chance to rebuild her life.