As a Londoner, I often forget to do ‘London’ things with the girls. I am so used to seeing the Houses of Parliament from the train when I’m off to buy deadly boring stuff like netball skirts that Pugin’s amazing building has all but lost its charm, while, on a clear day, you can catch sight of the Gerkin on the school run – enough to make anyone a bit blase.
At the weekend, though, the magic went back into London living. I went to see the Lord Mayor’s Show for the very first time, with the girls.
The show is a throwback from medieval times, when the city’s tradesmen first got organised into guilds, and then would have a procession through the city once a year to show off to potential customers, rivals and each other. The Lord Mayor is not the same thing at all as the Mayor of London – Boris Johnson is a politically elected figure (unbelievably) whereas Nick Anstee, the current Lord Mayor, holds his post for only a year and has an apolitical role.
Our day out was all organised by a lovely friend who grew up in the heart of London’s Inns of Court, which are tucked away behind some of the busiest streets in the capital but which preserve the calm and quiet of the city as it was a hundred years ago.
My friend, who used to watch the parade every year as a child, told me the perfect spot to watch from, right opposite the Royal Courts of Justice at the top of the Strand, and we were all set to meet there at 11.30. We got there, astonishingly, bang on time – despite having to pass TopShop, Paperchase and Jigsaw on the way, no mean feat with a teenager and a tweenager in tow – and straight away the procession kicked off. But where was my friend? It turned out that she’d left fashionably late, and as a result was stuck on the wrong side of the road down a bit from the heart of the action!
‘Random’ is one of those words, like ‘innit’ or ‘whatever’, which is never far from teenage lips, and during the parade it was used heavily. To be fair, there did not seem any particular rhyme or reason why a giant inflatable rack of lamb should be prancing down Fleet Street, followed by a brigade? platoon? squadron? from the RAF, with a pirates’ ship close on their heels. But after a while, we stopped asking ourselves why, and just enjoyed the spectacle.
One of our favourite floats was this space prawn:
As I am always threatening my girls with vegetables, I also appreciated this float:
But the piece de resistance was definitely this beautiful Cinderella-style coach, which the Lord Mayor rocked up to the Courts of Justice in:
The last time I saw a coach that beautiful was in Disneyworld, and it did belong to Cinderella – but I suspect it may have been made out of finely wrought plastic. This one definitely wasn’t.
Despite dire weather predictions of 70 mile an hour gales and torrential rain, we did pretty well, lasting out most of the procession in drizzle and only ducking inside the Apostrophe cafe when it got really, really wet. The staff of the cafe were amazing – friendly and welcoming to the huge throngs, not batting an eyelid when people stood on the stools to get a better view of the doings outside, and maintaining their smiles during what must have been their busiest Saturday ever. And they made a great cappucino, too.
A lovely day out. And, of course, we spent many hours in TopShop, Paperchase and Jigsaw on the way back, so everyone was happy.