diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Lord Mayor's Show

An English village show is always a quaint, traditional occasion, usually involving the local school orchestra and the anointing of a carnival queen who parades around the streets on the back of a lorry. The Lord Mayor's Show is very similar, except that the event is held in honour of a portly old bloke in a red cloak who parades around the streets in a horse-drawn gold coach. Welcome to the City of London's grandest day out.

The Lord Mayor's Show takes place every year on the second Saturday in November. The event has an uninterrupted history stretching back 790 years, which is bloody impressive really, even if all that happens is that the new Lord Mayor rides up to the City of Westminster to pay his respects to the sovereign and then rides home again. But the whole journey is wrapped up in such pomp and spectacle that half a million people turn out to line the route, nearly two miles in total from the Guildhall to Temple and back again. And I'd never been before, and the weather was nice, so I thought I'd go along. I gave the outward leg past St Paul's Cathedral a miss and took up position instead down on the Embankment near Blackfriars, just behind a group of conveniently short cub scouts.

The parade is organised with military precision, taking precisely one hour and five minutes to pass each point along the route. Maybe that's why most of the participants appeared to have military connections, from mounted soldiers to bearskinned bandsmen. In fact if they'd withdrawn everybody who kills for a living from the parade, the whole event would have been considerably shorter. I was struck by the wide variety of historical fashion that passes for modern military uniform, and also noted that there appear to be some really lardy seamen in the navy these days. The event was an aural feast for everyone who relishes the three-note melodies of military band music. Every couple of minutes another crack team of cornets (or flutes or trumpets or accordions or big silver glockenspiels) strode past, competing to be heard above the sea shanties and other traditional tunes playing out to front and rear. Young musicians in over-sized uniforms performed like true professionals. Percussionists held their drumsticks high, like split-second moustaches. Buglers carefully sidestepped a suspicious puddle which had recently erupted from the underbelly of a large stallion. And hey, where else could you hear the Isle of Sheppey St John Ambulance Band and the Romford Drum & Trumpet Corps? It's unique stuff, this.

Whereas village shows usually feature a succession of floats organised by car dealers, an old people's home and the local sea cadets, the Lord Mayor's Show always manages something a little more exclusive. Many of the participants seemed to be celebrating centenaries this year - the Rotary Club and the AA, for example - or were in some way connected to the Lord Mayor himself. Charlie Dimmock and Michael Aspel were on the back of one charity's float, allegedly, although they were all dressed up for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party so I didn't recognise either of them. Some of the organisations taking part were just plain obscure, like the Old Bailey Judges Golfing Society (seen beaming from a vintage vehicle). There were also a couple of public schools blatantly touting for business, some sick animals in search of a home, and even a camel called Therese (honest).

Much of the rest of the parade was taken up with City types. That's not the financial institutions (although a few were represented) but the archaic civic hierarchy of Guilds, Livery Companies and Aldermen. There are 107 Livery Companies recognised by the City, but only a few got to take part in this year's procession. The new Lord Mayor is a member of the Merchant Taylors, so they got a float, as did the equally medieval Blacksmiths, Pewterers and Leathersellers. The Distillers looked to be having a whale of a time on the back of their lorry (hic) while the Woolmen were probably regretting dressing up as yokels and shepherdesses for the day. But there were also some rather more unlikely guildsmen parading up and down in swirling cloaks and big floppy hats, because it seems any modern profession can be incorporated as a Livery Company these days. All hail the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers and (most recent of all) the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers, not to mention a crowd of caped businessmen representing Management Consultants, Lightmongers and Information Technologists. Maybe next year we'll get Baristas, Clampers and Minimum Wage Cleaning Operatives.

Near the end of the procession I spotted the Pageantmaster - not a new Harry Potter character but the man responsible for organising all 64 floats and 5261 participants into one clockwork procession. He stood proud in his open carriage, beaming like a victorious army general, resplendent beneath a black feathery hat. And finally came David Brewer (the City of London's seven hundred and something-th Lord Mayor) in a gleaming gold coach pulled by five great shire horses. He waved his black-fringed tricorn hat out of the window at the passing crowds, evidently enjoying every second of this very special autumn afternoon, before heading sedately onwards towards Mansion House. David has a busy year ahead, acting as the City's ambassador at home and abroad, hosting big banquets and raising money for his nominated charity. Sounds like Dick Whittington had it easy.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream