Share prices in arms firms and blacksmiths collapse as people flock to upmarket bakers following chance discovery by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE.
It’s been a busy week or so for Puffles – getting out and about. It was a pleasure & a privilege to take Puffles into Parliament for cake on the terrace with Tanni Grey-Thompson – thank you!
It was a bit of a surreal experience – turning up wearing dark glasses with dragon in tow, being completely dead-pan about it. Perhaps because I’d been in Parliament several times before (twice with Puffles but on the Portcullis House side) the dealing with security aspect was sort of business-as-usual for me, even though for them the fact that someone had turned up with a big dragon was not something they saw every day.
On the temporary security pass that you get issued with when you visit the building, you have your picture taken and printed out on it. Puffles and I shared one – Puffles coming out more clearly than me! Puffles also managed to get trapped in the security machine and had to be rescued by the security lady too – the first time that had happened!
There’s always something strange when I see people who, as a politics’ watcher over the years have always been in the news – or were many moons ago. Neil Kinnock and Gillian Shepherd were just 2 of the big names of yesteryear that wandered past as Puffles and I waited in the waiting area that was a cross between a medieval palace antechamber and school cloakroom. Being quite still and inconspicuous, most people managed not to notice the bloke quietly reading a newspaper with a dragon resting its snout on his knee.
My view has been – and still is that the Palace of Westminster is a masterpiece of a building. Say what you like about the people inside it, but the exterior and interior in my view are magnificent and awe-inspiring.
Once Tanni picked the two of us up, we went on a long wander around the estate to find the tearooms. Such was the length that we wandered past many-a-politician, staffer and security officer – their faces being an absolute treat as they tried to make sense of a baroness being accompanied by a stranger carrying a dragon.
We were lucky with the weather too – Parliament looking magnificent in the sunshine. Again there were famous (to me) faces taking time out from their days, most of them seemingly oblivious to Puffles. Perhaps it was the intensity of the disability debate that was going on in Parliament – something that Anne McGuire MP kindly came over and briefed us about. A number of Puffles’ followers were also following closely too judging by their tweets.
The one thing that struck me about this visit that I had not noticed on previous ones was how inaccessible the building seemed to be – even with all of the modifications that had been put in following the Disability Discrimination Act. Being a Grade 1 listed building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site does put up a few barriers, but I couldn’t help but feel that a few doors could be removed or some of the surfaces redone to make it that little bit easier for those with limited mobility. When exiting the Palace, I looked around at Whitehall in rush hour. It struck me how intimidating it must be not just to those with disabilities but those who are very young or very old – or who are just not used to the noise, hustle and bustle of a big city in the rush hour.
Westminster to Kings Cross isn’t the straight-forward journey that I’d like it to be – it requires too many changes. London Underground in the rush hour is best avoided on the best of days, so we wandered up to The Strand before heading back to Cambridge.
It had been a busy day with a morning meeting with Josh Chambers of Civil Service World – talking about all things social and digital media. This was followed by lunch with Penny Homer of Edition Peters - the classical music publishers and Toby Blume of Urban Forum.
Puffles again had that marmite effect on people – some thinking “Who’s that freak with the cuddly toy?” to delighted members of staff taking pictures of Puffles holding menus.
Am I particularly concerned about what people think of me carrying Puffles around? Not really. Over the past six months or so I’ve met a lot of people for the first time, who then on subsequent meetups end up bringing someone new along. Hence bringing Puffles regularly too. Taking Puffles with me to such gatherings for me is now ‘the norm’. Yes, I get questions about what Puffles is all about, but it’s a useful link into a conversation on the growing influence of social media. When they get a feel for the diversity and calibre of people that follow Puffles or that read this blog, most of them ‘get it.’ For those that don’t, my take is chances are I wouldn’t have gotten on with them anyway and am no worse for it. My use of social media allows me to filter in good people into my life and filter out the bad ones. The same goes for having a dragon with me.
As well as social occasions, Puffles has been with me at various talks, conferences and workshops – nearly all of which have been about social media. Hence it being sort of appropriate that Puffles is there with me, if anything just to get some points over. Puffles has been directly linked to in a Cabinet Office media release, has accompanied me in social media seminars for local councillors – including the Mayor of Cambridge, and is now very much my social media public face following my contributions to The Guardian’s live Q&A discussion on reform of the civil service. If Puffles is suitable for Cabinet Office, for local government and for a national newspaper…exactly.
I don’t take Puffles everywhere – that would be a bit of an inconvenience to say the least. (You try food or clothes shopping with a big dragon under your arm!) But more often than not, people are saying “Please bring Puffles with you!” And why not?