Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Welcome Wagon

In honor of the American—Brit spirit of this blog, I’m adding Tom Watson, a Labour MP for West Bromwich East and now Cabinet Minister for Transformational Government, and the author Christopher Campbell-Howes to the Neighbors. I met Tom in RL through the amazing Venn diagram of blog circles. He has a deep belief in the democratizing and ultimately transformational power of information, primarily through the Internet. The idea is that when citizens have more knowledge and specific information about anything, they will be able to make better-informed decisions on every level, from where to live to voting on important policy decisions.

Christopher Campbell-Howes retired early from teaching in Scotland to write in the South of France. It sounds like something out of a novel itself. He landed here one day, and now I look forward to reading his books, both his expat memoir French Leaves and his novel, The Night Music.

A politician in Westminster + Scotland. Hmm. I feel a flashback coming on.

Back to the great Parliamentary romp I had when I was a senior at Southampton University, Hants. Through a friend of a friend, I was going to house-sit for a week in Wembley on our break. I went over to Ireland for a bit with a fellow American, and then went from an overnight Rosslare/Fishguard crossing straight to London, where my hostess met me. Her name was Carol, and she worked for a Scottish MP at Parliament. She had arranged for me have lunch with her boss—-whose name I am very sorry to say I don’t remember-—in one of the parliamentary dining rooms.

It was such a whirlwind—-not much sleep on the ferry, then meeting Carol at the employee entrance of Westminster. It was exciting going through all the checkpoints into the building (even back then) through a maze of behind-the-scene corridors, finally to the dining room. It’s a little blurry, but all of a sudden we were on the terrace of the building, right on the Thames, drinking sherry. It was thrilling. I tried to sear into my brain what an amazing place to be. (At that time there were no tables and chairs on the terrace.) Then we had lunch. My Scottish MP was an older, burly gentleman or a man. Thank God his accent wasn’t too thick, so I could follow his stories. Before I really realized it, I was being drunk under the table. Ah, those were the days. Wine, more wine, Irish coffee. I could barely keep up, I was tired from little sleep, and I started getting giddy from the wine and spirits, but I don’t remember any catastrophes. Soon the MP was off, back to work, and Carol was ushering me through some of the public corridors, back to the street.

The next day Carol left for the Cotswolds with her husband and 2 kids, and I had the house for 2 weeks. Which was very nice when the Englishman I had met on the Dingle Peninsula came to town . . . .

Here’s a cup of Sunday tea with Steed and Mrs. Peel, a la Peter & Gordon, for the new neighbors.


Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Well this is a great honour, MAP. Thank you very much. I really will try to live up to it. It won't be easy...