Saturday, 16 September 2017

Open House London: Saturday 16th September 2017

In spite of the heightened state of alert in the wake of yesterday's bomb on the London Underground train at Parson's Green, Sue and I decided to go to Westminster to visit some of the buildings that were open as part of Open House London 2017.

We drove to North Greenwich tube station and took the Jubilee Line to Green Park tube station, and it took us just a matter of minutes to reach St James's Palace.

As we were too early for our visit to the Queen's Chapel, we walked down Marlborough Road, and passed the back of the Palace as we did so.

We crossed over The Mall and sat in St James's Park, watching the world go by.

We then walked back to the Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace ...

... until it was time to go in at 10.00am.

Our visit lasted about fifteen minutes, and we were not allowed to take any photographs. The following coloured drawing for 1819 does give some idea about what it looks like today, although there have been some changes made in the interim.

We then went next door to Marlborough House, which is the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

It was originally built to be the town house of the Dukes of Marlborough, and still retains many links to the family. It was bought by the Crown in 1817, and was used by members of the Royal Family as a residence until it was leased to the Commonwealth Secretariat in the 1980s.

The house is magnificent, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs.

Sue and I then walked down Pall Mall until we reached Waterloo Place. We turned right there, and crossed over The Mall near the Royal Artillery Monument. We then walked past the Guards Memorial at Horse Guards Parade, where a protest march was assembling.

This was a protest against a Northern Ireland government decision to order the Police Service of Northern Ireland to investigate 'fatal incidents' involving members of the British Army during the period between 1968 and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement with a view to prosecuting any soldiers who were involved. Sue and I stopped and had a word with some of the veterans, most of whom were our age or slightly older.

We then made our way up King Charles Street, where we joined the queue to visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The security checks were thorough – hence the queue to get in – but even so we only had to wait for about twenty minutes before entering this magnificent building complex.

We passed through the main entrance gate, and into the large quadrangle around which the offices are ranged. We turned left, and entered the doorway that took us onto the ground floor. We walked along the corridors until we reached the glass-roofed Durbar Court, which used to be at the heart of the former India Office.

From there we went upstairs via the so-called Gurkha Stair (it has a bronze statue of a Gurkha soldier at the top) and the around the second floor until we reached the India Office Council Chamber and then the Muses Stair. This has an octagonal glass lantern above it, which is decorated with statues of goddesses of plenty, ...

... below which are portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France.

We then moved on to the Locarno Suite, with its beautifully decorated Conference Room. ...

... Dining Room, ...

... and Grand Reception Room.

By this time our visit was almost over, and we descended the Grand Staircase ...

... which is covered by a magnificently decorated ceiling.

At the bottom of the stairs, and occupying a place of prominence on an antique chair, was Palmerston (AKA DiploMog).

He is a two-year-old, black and white, bicolour or Tuxedo cat, who took up the role of resident Chief Mouser of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on 13th April 2016. He has his own Twitter account (@DiploMog) and is rumoured to be a great favourite with the staff as well as visiting diplomats. He does however have a long-running feud with No.10's cat, Larry, and the two can sometimes be seem squaring up to each other in Downing Street. (If you don't believe me, you can look this up on the Internet!)

After leaving the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Sue and I decided that we wanted to visit one more place on our list, the Treasury. Unfortunately it was shut 'due to operational reasons', and as we were both feeling tired and a bit hungry, we walked to Westminster tube station to catch the Jubilee Line train back to North Greenwich so that we could collect our car and go home.


  1. Nice to see that the cat acts like a cat and is not awed by its illustrious surrounding. My local train station has a 'celebrity' cat but I've yet to see it.



    1. Pete.,

      According to one of the staff we talked to, Palmerston only bestirs himself when important people and visiting diplomats arrive. He sits up, and expects to be greeted with a chin stroke or two ... and sometimes even a present!

      All the best,


  2. Palmerston looks like a real gentleman, and some wise individual has figured out his 'true' name. Clearly, Larry is a mere thug.

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I tend to agree with you, especially as recent unpublished photographs taken outside No.10 Downing Street purported to show Larry killing a mouse and disemboweling it!

      The contention that Palmerston is more of a gentleman (or should that be gentlecat?) than Larry is also borne out the presence of mousetraps under several radiators on the upper floors of the FCO building. He is obviously too engrossed in welcoming visitors on the ground floor level to undertake the more menial task of killing mice ... a task better left to thugs like Larry.

      All the best,


  3. Well done for venturing out, the natural Londoner approach as I understand it.

    re the protest, I would think that any prosecutions should be of officers not soldiers.

    1. Ross Mac,

      Sue and I lived through the IRA bombing campaign in London ... and on several occasions we were very close to bombs that went off. When things like this happen, you can either stay at home and be frightened, or keep on doing the things you usually do and accept the risk. The whole process of living is risky, so why not embrace it and live life to the full for as long as you can.

      Unless it was genuinely criminal in nature, I see no reason why any members of the British armed forces should be prosecuted for what they did whilst on duty in Northern Ireland. As I understand it, the Agreement gave an amnesty to members of the IRA but did not extend that to members of the armed forces because they were acting under the legal protection of being serving soldiers under orders.

      It is my personal opinion that the PSNI is pursuing this matter because the Northern Ireland's Minister of Justice (who I understand is a Republican) is following a political agenda and is not that interested in any form of reconciliation.

      All the best,



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