Friday the 13th of July was a lucky day, actually, because our class had a guided tour inside Parliament! It is also known as the Palace of Westminster, and the Queen is allowed to visit only once a year (usually in November) to give her speech. All of the myriad facts and figures swimming around in my head about Parliament were regaled in full detail by our elderly guide, Gerald Burke, who had been for many years a sergeant-at-arms in Parliament. We toured the House of Commons (part of which was bombed in WWII) and the House of Lords. In The Members' Lobby, there are statues of many ex-Prime Ministers. A recent addition is Maggie Thatcher and Mr. Burke told us that at the unveiling, she joked that she didn't like it because it wasn't made of iron!
ABOLITION EXHIBIT IN WESTMINSTER HALL
After our tour, I toured a temporary exhibit in huge Westminster Hall, which was built in 1097 and is the oldest part of the palace. The free exhibit, which runs through Sept. 23, is ''The British Slave Trade: Abolition, Parliament, and People.'' It marks the ''1807-2007 Bicentenary of the British Parliamentary Aboliton of the Slave Trade.'' A pamphlet notes that the exhibit ''examines the pressures and voices both at home and abroad which influenced Parliament, and eventually led to the passing of the Act to abolish Britain's slave trade in 1807.''
There is a disturbing section at the end of the exhibit on modern-day slavery. It made me think of my friend Nola Theiss, the former mayor of my hometown of Sanibel Island, and other women on Sanibel and in Southwest Florida. They are working tirelessly to help eradicate human trafficking, a horror not unknown to Florida even in this millenium.