Trip write up provided by Carter Appleford (Y12):
The journey begins at 8.30 sharp, in the cold winter morning of November 14th. The world is frostbitten, and to our band of teenaged adventurers, far, far too early- but there is an undeniable buzz of excitement in the air. There is an unspoken whisper of adventure: it is wrapped up within us the way we are wrapped within our coats and scarves and hats. We shiver, not only with cold, but with anticipation- and although it is bright and the sun is fresh, we all (silently) agree that the reward outweighs the risk. So, chilled, tired, and hungry for the day, we clambered onto the coach.
We do not stay silent for long. Eager chatter bubbles through the coach like waves, until it is entirely consumed by our eagerness, and even the teachers are infected with our fervor for London. The roads outside shift, trickling slowly into something industrialised, something new, and something incredibly different to Sudbury. The trees shrink and replace themselves with buildings that stretch farther than any man could climb. The sky clouds with pollution that only one city could generate. The world morphs into London, and after 2 hours' worth of (very passionately) sung pop music from the girls in the back of the coach, we screech to a halt- and we have arrived.
London. There is no way to describe a place like London unless you have felt it for yourself. The people are faster, ruder, louder than anybody you have ever seen before, and they cram the streets like sardines; yet you cannot help but feel more connected to them than anybody else you have known. You cannot help but be swept up in the sensational feeling of innovation that is London. It is dizzying and grounding all at once. The smells, the sights, the sounds, all of it screams at you together in one unanimous burst. It is unlike anywhere else on the planet.
We first set sights for the Royal Courts of Justice. The grounds are huge, and the building is ornate. To enter, we pass through metal detectors and security guards, both of which loom menacingly over our group as we travel. Thankfully, none of us had the idea to jokingly carry any concealed weapons, so we were in without a hitch. From outside, the Courts look like an old, fancy building: from inside, they explode with life. Being in a place like the Royal Courts of Justice makes you truly comprehend how small you are. The towering architecture likens you to an ant: one small being, stepping along the tiled floors. Now humbled, we wander the corridors, searching for a glimpse of a hearing we can listen to. We do not find any, but nobody complains- simply being in the building is enough to ensnare you with a feeling of awe.
Leaving, we are reminded of what the Courts are for: justice. A small group of protesters line their way along the Royal Courts’ iron fence, calling for change- if I have one regret from the day, it’s that I didn’t stop to see what it was for. However, time moves quick, and our group moves quicker, as we head on to Trafalgar Square.
The place is bustling with life. The smell of food hits you from a mile away, and the sound of people hits you from farther. For lunch, we were allowed free reign in London- and we took that to our advantage. Some of us took the opportunity to visit the National Portrait Gallery, which offered free entry and a ginormous display of pictures, prints and paintings: including several Thomas Gainsborough originals. Standing in front of history is a harrowing thing to do. You catch yourself, slowly, wondering whether the artist knows how their art will be remembered. Did Thomas Gainsborough know, all those years ago as he painted fields and flowers, that one day children bearing his name would stare at them in galleries? Will he ever know?
There is no time for existentialism in London. It moves far too fast for you to think deeply about things. The day continues, and lunch is over.
We walk to Whitehall quickly- the sun is already at its highest point in the sky. We pass Mansion House, the Cenotaph and Downing Street, one after the other in quick succession. We pass guards on horseback, buskers with hats full of life savings, tourists, and natives; we pass the Supreme Court and Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. We pass the Field of Remembrance, and a solemn wave of stillness washes over us. The group pauses for a minute, in respect, and then we continue towards Parliament.
From outside, Parliament is a snapshot from the past. The building is so intricate and delicate that you feel fear breathing too heavily around it. The architecture looks like it is comprised of paper and will snap at a single moment; the tiling looks like meringue. And again, we are returned to that antlike feeling from before, that hollow feeling of being entirely infinitesimal. This feeling unwinds like fishing wire inside you, unfurling from your chest and stretching out into the world around you. It wraps around the doors, and then snaps- they open, and we are greeted by a tour guide. Parliament is modern on the inside, at least in the meeting area: televisions line the wall. After another security check, we are in, and we are moving.
Parliament is quiet. People’s heels echo on the tiled floor. The group stands in an enormous hall, with arches lining the ceiling, and listens. We stand in the hall where Henry VIII played tennis and cooked bonfires, where Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin was displayed for the public to see, and Boris Johnson says hello to us.
Half the group do not realise it is him until he passes by the second time, ushered around by a confidant, and then the group erupts into excited whispers. Everyone insists that they were the person he said hello to. Thankfully, he does not pass by a third time- that would be overkill. We have the secrets of Parliament explained to us, including small factoids of history: did you know that the tiled lions in the floor have been retiled so that their eyes are shut, to avoid looking up female MP’s skirts?
Ushered on, the group sits in the House of Common’s visitor galleries - Suella Braverman debates Diane Abbot about the migrant crisis, separated from us only by a thick piece of glass. The House of Lords is no different, except wealthier. There is no pane of glass to separate us, but we still feel worlds apart. Universes, even. The physical difference between Us and Them expands farther and farther as you realise that these people, these Lords, are debating the future of England, your future, and yet they have never even met you. They speak on issues they will never face themselves, and the way they speak about them is frightening. It is like watching children play house. It is like watching children. It is the most terrifying part of the day.
There is a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst outside Parliament. Her face is stoic and stone. She watches over the small park area she is placed in and reminds you to fight for what you want. She acts as a leader even in death. The girls in the class stand in front of her statue, taking a picture with somebody so crucial to their freedom. The boys watch from afar. Mrs. Power takes a selfie with Michael Fabricant (A Conservative party MP), who seems positively ecstatic to be asked (and remembered about). As we leave Parliament, the air is colder and cooler. The pigeons have flown away, and there is a sense of calm in the air. London has not quietened down, it never will, it never can, but our group of adventurers has, as we walk back to the coach in a newfound and comfortable hush. I have a conversation with Mrs. Power about sociology, and the idea of inherent bias in the education system, and it is the most insightful part of the day.
The drive home is quiet. The world outside is quiet. The roads are dark, and the streetlights are bright, but they battle into a healthy medium. The journey back is not the same as before; we are all changed. We have seen the riches of Parliament and Lords, the crispness of their clothes and the power that they hold. We have seen the homeless, sleeping on cardboard in the middle of Winter. We have seen children and elders, police officers and protestors, light and dark. We have seen everything; and as we digest this information, we are quiet. There is never anything left to say after such a brilliant outing.
The journey ends at 7.00 sharp, in the cold Winter night of November 14th. The world is heavier, and we are grateful.