See a model village in a model village in a model village!

Who doesn’t like a good model village? But what about standing next to your hotel room in a model village. Or better still seeing a model village in a model village in a model village in a village. If you head to the model village in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds that’s exactly what you can do.

Standing next to our dormer window hotel room of the model Dial House Hotel

Standing next to our dormer window hotel room of the model Dial House Hotel

This particular model village doesn’t contain the global wonders of the world, all in one convenient spot. So don’t expect to see Big Ben next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a waist high version of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. No instead this model village … is of the actual village that you’re actually in!

We headed to Bourton-on-the-Water as part of a romantic break in The Cotswolds which also included horse riding, duck racing (watching – not riding), cream tea eating, “pottering”, but best of all visiting the model village. In fact it was so good I went twice in the same day!! The model village is a 1/9 replica of Bourton-on-the-Water built in local Cotswolds stone, was opened in 1937 and is the only grade 2 listed model village in the country.

The model River Windrush

The model River Windrush

It’s a very twee thing to visit but equally quite wonderful, and the perfect thing to do on a Summer’s afternoon in the British countryside. There’s even the River Windrush running through the village with this shot above showing off the effort they’ve made to get the bushes to look like trees that would be 9x bigger in real life! So apart from soaking up the painstaking attention to details what fun things can you do when you’re in there?

Take some low shots to re-inact actually being at ground level. Find your hotel and then get your girlfriend to stand next to your room so she looks like a giant. Then try to capture the exact same shot in real life later that afternoon with your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend in the same spot. We stayed at the delightful Dial House Hotel which commands one of the best spaces in the village, is neatly set back off the road with copious grounds behind it. Our room was up in the roof overlooking the river and here’s our model/real shot that we tried to line up as best we could.

The view of the model Dial House Hotel and real Dial House Hotel

The view of the ‘model’ Dial House Hotel and ‘real’ Dial House Hotel

 

The view of the 'model' Croft Restaurant and 'real' Croft Restaurant

The view of the ‘model’ Croft Restaurant and ‘real’ Croft Restaurant

Get down low on the floor and take pictures your friends might think are ‘real’ shots when they are not. So here’s the Bourton-on-the-Water Post Office in the main High Street. On busy days there are always going to be people in the background so these guys in the background kind of give the game away:)

The model or maybe the real Bourton-on-the-Water post office

The model or maybe the real Bourton-on-the-Water post office?

If you want to blow your mind away go to the part of the exhibition next to the exit as that’s where you get to see a model village in a model village in a model village in the village. The smallest of the model villages gets a bit unrecognisable but it makes you think how much smaller they could actually go!

The model village in the model village in the model village in the village

The model village in the model village in the model village in the village

It was the perfect way to while away an hour and more information can be found on their webite at http://www.themodelvillage.com/

Watch Prime Minister’s Questions

You’ve seen the Prime Minister on the news standing behind his despatch box, and you might even have already been on a ‘House of Commons’ tour, but did you know you can actually be present when all the the MPs are in session and witness the main event of the week? ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ (or PMQ for short). This being a weekly event every Wednesday at noon. Well you can, and I did – just last week.

The view down into the House of Commons from the visitors' gallery

The view down into the House of Commons from the visitors’ gallery. Source: http://www.andreajenkyns.co.uk/

It was during a House of Commons tour I attended as part of an Exeter University alumni event that our guide mentioned PMQ, and that if we wrote to our local MP and asked to specifically attend PMQ we might just receive an invite. So I asked my MP Peter Lilley and was invited.

A few months later in April the invite letter arrived stating that I’d been successful and I could take along Mrs Biggs. But with their being no Mrs Biggs yet I invited a close travel blogger friend who’d been very much interested in the EU referendum outcome just a week before. As luck up would have it this was the first Wednesday after both the EU referendum results and David Cameron’s resignation!

The PMQ letter sent to me by Peter Lilley MP

The PMQ letter sent to me by Peter Lilley MP

On the day itself you arrive at the Cromwell entrance of the Palace of Westminster (just past the Oliver Cromwell statue), show the security guards your invite letter and then walk down to the airport style security just 20 yards along. Once through you are guided to the entrance of the Westminster Hall, which for us at the time was hosting the Ethics of Dust exhibition. At the far end you head left though to Central Lobby and into the small Administration office where you sign a security form to collect your ‘Visitors’ Gallery’ passes. It’s in this atrium that the Speaker’s Procession arrives. Many people were there simply to watch this mini event so make sure you get near the front as they enter from opposite the Westminster Hall entrance before turning right into the Commons’ Corridor. You then follow behind them into the Commons’ Lobby whereupon guides show you up the stairs to a cloakroom where you are patted down once again. No cameras or phones are allowed inside hence the distinct lack of my own photos in this post! Finally you appear in the ‘Visitors’ Gallery’. It holds about 200 people in tiered seating with everybody wedged in quite tight shoulder-to-shoulder. Ask for a copy of the ‘Order Paper’ so you can see that day’s agenda.

The Cromwell Green Entrance just past the Oliver Cromwell Statue.

The Cromwell Green Entrance just past the Oliver Cromwell Statue. Source: Lynn Hall

 

The steps at the end of Westminster Hall opposite the entrance. Alex Salmond giving a tour

The steps at the end of Westminster Hall opposite the entrance. Alex Salmond giving a tour

 

Central Lobby with the House of Commons entrance on the right

Central Lobby with the Administration office in the top right hand corner and entrance to the House of Commons where the guards are on the right. You enter from the doors opposite. Source: https://stephenliddell.co.uk/

 

The Speaker of the House of Commons, walking through the Commons' Lobby

The Speaker of the House of Commons, walking through the Commons’ Lobby on a separate occasion. Source: http://www.vancouversun.com

We sat down at 11:45 with the previous session still going strong. At 11:55 we elbowed each other, “Look there’s Gove, and now Cameron! And there’s Corbyn”. You’d imagine there would be a lot of hush in the gallery but behind soundproof glass the stewards were able to talk reasonably loud when showing people where to sit. At 12.00 protocol dictates that an irrelevant question be asked about the Prime Minister’s business for the day, presumably with him giving the same generic reply each week.

You feel a little distant from the action behind this full glass partition but that had to go up when somebody through some purple powder over the previous barrier in the days of Tony Blair back in 2004. While we were there we noticed that the window itself could have done with a bit of a clean!😉

Looking back up at the visitors gallery.

Looking back up at the Visitors’ Gallery behind the soundproof glass partition. Source: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk

Surprisingly the debate was far less raucous than I expected, especially considering the timing of our visit straight after Cameron’s resignation. Only once did Cameron “threaten” Corbyn with a 10 scone burst of “Go man Go” that took us all by surprise as it came out of absolutely nowhere. A pre-planned 10 second soundbyte for that evening’s news I wonder😉

As most of the MPs questions are pre-planned it was delightful to hear a Tory MP ask whether 150 schoolchildren from her constituency would be able to pass on some Christmas cards that they’d designed to the Queen, when arguably 6 days post Brexit there were more important questions to ask! The MPs erupted into laughter but the speaker silenced them all by remarking “I want to hear about these pupils” and with that the MPs calmed down and the MP was allowed to finish her answer and await the Prime Minster’s quite amusing reply.

At 12:30 the session finished and ‘urgent questions and statements’ followed. Surprisingly many MPs left as this point, as did we soon after but not before an hour and 15 minutes of enlightening entertainment to see what it is that all those MPs get up to. So get writing to your local MPs to guarantee an entry rather than take a punt on queuing up on the actual day.

The view down into the House of Commons from the back of the visitors' gallery.

The view down into the House of Commons from the back of the visitors’ gallery. No photos allowed when we were there though! Source: http://www.yoppul.co.uk

More questions about PMQ can be found on the official website.

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