On Saturday morning I woke up feeling positively giddy. After last week's failed attempt at seeing the Lord Mayor's fireworks (hint: we were eagerly stood on the Southbank awaiting a bang that wasn't due for another week), we were not going to let this weekend defeat us. 10am came around and we near enough swaddled ourselves against the wind before jumping on the train into Central London.
I had militia drums running through my mind all night. I don't know what it is, but there's something about drums, in whatever capacity, that taps into my subconscious and as such, reduces me to a 'prickly throat' stage of emotional vulnerability for extended periods of time. Salvation Army brass bands have the same effect. Christmas carol season is tough...
I have never walked along the Southbank so fast in my life. As a general rule I keep all movements to a restricted speed that never quite leaves the parameters of 'wandering', but boy, did I motor across Millennium Bridge that day. So quick that I didn't even mimic the 'muggles falling off the bridge scene' from Harry Potter...
It wasn't long before I could hear those famed drums beating their way through the City's oldest streets and ran up to the barriers, using all my experience of being 5'3" and a teenage gig-goer to manoeuvre a half decent spot for myself near the front of the crowd. At this stage, I resembled Lydia from Pride and Prejudice and had to refrain from shrieking 'the militia are coming!' when red coats marched around the corner.
The Lord Mayor's Show has a rich history of pageantry, pomp and tradition. It's old. Like, really old. This was it's 799th year, which is just crazy to think about. In London, it's so easy to get caught up in the glassy planes of skyscrapers and ping pong bars, forgetting that the roads around St. Paul's were the busiest streets housing the most affluent manufacturing guilds of the country. These ancient guilds are still in operation today, although perhaps the 'Information Technology' guild was a later addition now I think on it...
Oh, what I wouldn't give to be one of those ladies riding side-saddle through the city!
The first ever Lord Mayor's procession wasn't so much a show as an inconvenience, started by King James in 1189 as a 'peace offering' to the people. To appease the masses, he allowed them to choose their own mayor (how very kind of him), but only on the premise that Mr. Mayor leave the city immediately after election and travel upstream to the distant land of Westminster to swear loyalty to the crown. This has happened every year since, despite the Black Death in 1346-53 and The Great Fire of London in 1666.
When the military bands came down the usually gridlocked streets with their piccolos singing and horses stomping, I felt an intense feeling of the sublime. Polished buckles and bridles glinted despite the overcast weather, the smell of caramelised nuts wafted between the crowd and cheers from hundreds upon hundreds of people drew me into a moment that existed within a moment. Shared between generations of Londoners, we had for nearly 800 years come together to celebrate our nation and experience the same excited atmosphere that the Lord Mayor's show boasts every year.
When the new mayor was sworn in and emerged from St. Paul's, the noise of hundreds of people yelling 'hip, hip, hooray!' attached me to a greater whole. Not often dwelled upon as a 'community', London was exactly that today.
This was the 'showstopper' - the Lord Mayor's State Coach, only pulled out once a year - you can kind of see why. When designing this, I believe the inspiration was 'all the gold. All of it.'
There aren't many people I know who are a fan of morris dancers, but I do have a certain fondness for them. There's something about old men dancing with bells on their socks that is a truly wonderful concept to me.
After all that excitement a trip to fill our bellies was well in order, and so once again I found myself in Borough Market chowing down on a duck wrap. Will I try anything else? Probably not.
Have you ever been to the Lord Mayor's Show? Or is there a parade you've been to that made you feel all warm and happy inside? Let me know!