The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat Diary

In search of the Beautiful again … again!

Part 2 of … more than two.

Well, Dear Reader, as I said in the last post (which in Ramsgate is the same as the first post … we only have the one) … ┬áthe lovely Lindsay took us on a tour of St Stephen’s Tower, the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. (If you haven’t read the first post, scroll down, it is below this one) The tower tour, which takes in the clock, Big Ben and a whole host of … steps, is well worth doing. You have to go through quite a lot of security to make sure that you’re not carrying a weapon, missile or a strong satirical bent but once you’re up there it is fantastic. I did notice that they didn’t search us on the way out so, if I’d had a spanner I could have made away with Big Ben … stuffed up my jumper perhaps.

Now, at the end of the tour, all the other tour-ees, pootled off and did what ex-tour-ees do, whilst we, the lovely Suzy and I were given a treat. We, Dear Reader, were taken back into the Palace of Westminster, through the underground tunnel and were aimed in the direction of Westminster Hall and left to our own devices. My device (no batteries required) was to mainly stand around agog, going “Wow” and “Phoar”, looking at one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever been into, the Hammer-beam roof has to be one of the most spectacular sights ever, and to think that it was built in 1393 by the Royal Carpenter, Hugh Herland, “the greatest creation of medieval timber architecture” somebody said … Suzy managed to drag me away from Westminster Hall and into the Central Lobby … but being easily agogged I once more stood … agog … have a little peek at the picture below to see what I was agogging about. The Central Lobby was originally called the Octagon Hall … for obvious reasons. It is directly below the Central Tower, which was added to the plans for Westminster Palace because Doctor somebody or other who was in charge of ventilation (I bet that looked good on his CV) needed a large chimney to extract stale (and hot) air from the Houses of Commons and Lords. So Charles Barry, the architect, added this beautiful tower to the plans … fantastic … it didn’t work … too much hot and stale air for it to cope with I suppose.

Being from Britain, Suzy and I saw a queue and joined it. It was quite a civilised queue in that we sat on a long green leather bench. We sat and shuffled along as people were called into an inner sanctum. Above our heads were enormous paintings of various historical scenes. One of these was of the Siege of Basing House; this seemed relevant to me as I’ve just written a play for the Youth Theatre of Proteus Theatre Company about the siege of Basing House. Eventually it was our turn. “Fill in your name and address please”, said the Bobby, “And then follow me”. We filled in his little form and then followed him and made our way up more stairs where a very smart woman in a tail suit and tie and a nifty badge on her cummerbund (that’s not a phrase I’ve ever written before) asked us to wait whilst a group of German students went past. We gave our bags to a man also wearing a tail coat, tie and nifty badge on his cummerbund (twice in one day!) in exchange for a little token. And then, up more steps until we found our way into the viewing gallery of the House of Commons. Jeremy Hunt was rabbiting away (that was a very lame gag about hunting and rabbiting; it is dreadful when you have to explain a joke) about something but to be honest I wasn’t interested in a word he was saying as I was once again … agog. The interior of the Commons, though not as richly decorated as the Lord’s is still an agogging sight.

From the Commons we crossed the Central Lobby and went up lots of stairs (again), the walls are covered in Pugin’s wallpaper, which is stunning, and we climbed up to the Strangers Gallery that looks down on the Lord’s. For a few seconds we stared at Lord Adonis rabbiting on about something else … apprentices and apprentice schemes, in fact … but the fabric of the Chamber of the Lord’s then took my attention. It is sumptuous and very richly painted and gilded. The ceiling is stunning as is the Sovereign’s Throne … Pugin … for it is he that we are interested in Dear Reader, has designed something that would make even the most uncultured buffoon in the world go … “phoar”. I did notice that the Woolsack, where the Lord Speaker sits, is a) big and b) red … it also has no back on it so the poor speaker has to sit up straight for hours on end … still, I suppose it keeps Baroness D’Souza awake during those long Lordly rambles. The Spiritual Side of the House, to the right of the Lord Speaker, is where the archbishops and bishops sit, there were a couple in attendance … along with the Government Party, whilst the Opposition sit on the Temporal side. Those who have no affiliations to any particular party sit on benches that run across the chamber and are known as Cross Benchers … the few that were there that day were neither cross nor indeed awake but that’s democracy for you.

We then wandered back into Westminster Hall where there is a very up-market little shop where Houses of Parliament trinkets can be bought (though not nifty little badges on a cummerbund, I noticed) … I ended up with a Big Ben Pencil (coveted) and a Pugin design tie … which I will wear on official The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat events. It is very special and I may take a photograph of it and put it into part 3 of the In Search of the Beautiful again … again! post … there may have to be another again on the end of that. So do keep tuning in.

So, Dear Reader, my research into Pugin, his work and particularly his design work, is hurtling along at full speed. I am hoping that all of this “looking” and “agogging” that I’m doing will inform the script but for that you shall have to wait.

We are at a very exciting stage with the planning of The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat. We are organising a number of workshops: arty ones, drama/theatrey ones and talky ones. We are also in the process of putting together our Education pack and a leaflet to be sent to schools before the end of term to offer various curriculum based workshops using Pugin, his designs, architecture and his life and times as the catalyst for some exciting and creative work in schools. We are also working alongside The Pugin Society to create a few events for the general public primarily here in East Kent but also during the autumn around the UK. So, Dear Reader, if you are interested in having Mischievous in your school, or you would like to partake in a workshop, or you are a part of a group who might like to have an event, or you know someone who might be interested in any of the above … please let me know.

You can contact me, Clive, on 0797 122 3282 or by e mail to: clive@mischievoustheatre.co.uk

In the meantime … do keep your eyes peeled for other information about the project and if you want to know anything about Mischievous or The Man in the Wide-Awake Hat: Pugin’s Gothic Adventures … then please get in touch.

And watch out for part 3; coming soon.