Members of the Lord Mayor's entourage. Photo by Michael Vance.
“Why is the London mayor the last in his parade? Because he’s been tipping back the glass, that’s why! Had a bit too many!” An elderly Englishman with ruddy cheeks and a green felt hat told me this while Mike and I watched the Lord Mayor’s Show today in London. The event, which includes a parade of members of the military branches and many flashy floats, commemorates the 800-year-old tradition of the city’s mayor traveling from the Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice to pledge loyalty to the Queen. But the best part of the show was the commentary by the Londoners standing directly in front of us. “When the mayor waves, he kind of…” and the Man in the Green Hat swayed back and forth, imitating a drunken salute.
Tonight we also walked through Covent Gardens and Piccadilly Circus, which were swirling with thousands of people. Lights were strung above the streets, theatre billboards flashed, and bright red double-decker buses whooshed by. In bustling places like these, I feel my smallness in the world. I am one of 7 billion. The history that advertises itself on the face of all the city’s ancient buildings reminds me that millions have walked these streets before me. This realization is both humbling and freeing. My world that seemed so important in California is just a tiny bubble. Popped.
Another London moment that made me smile: Drinking a pint of Oscar Wilde ale (the reigning champion of British beers) in a noisy pub called the Harp in the West End. In the U.S., do we have any Hemingway hefeweizens, Steinbeck pale ales, or Fitzgerald IPAs? Bless the British for loving writers so much.