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Pomp, circumstance and soggy shoes

Turn again, Whittington,
Lord Mayor of London

It’s been said that no-one does pageantry and pomp and circumstance quite like us Brits and I think that’s spot-on.

Oh sure, other nations do their best: you have Mother Russia and North Korea demonstrating their might and firepower, the Carnival-goers in Brazil and the Sydney Gay-Priders, for example, and Chicago’s St Patricks’ Day is something to behold.

But it takes standing in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning watching thousands of British businessmen, women and children taking part in the world’s largest unrehearsed parade through the normally sedate City of London to know that, really, we do it best. Other nations take it all a bit too seriously, even the fun bits. We know how to do it all with tongues firmly in cheeks, with a proper sense of the ridiculous.

The Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants got the chance to take part in the 500 year-old tradition thanks to our honorary member Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE who is the new Lord Mayor of London. She’s the 686th person to hold the post and only the second woman. And, thanks to the hard work put in by the Float Committee headed up by John Poore, we put on a ruddy good show.

30 liverymen walking in the pouring rain dressed up as Ronnie Barker, others taking the plunge and dressing up as building materials from lintels, to paint cans, to drainage covers and wc pans. Even as a clay pipe – you know who you are – and yes, I have the photographic evidence.

Thanks to all the lobbying of the BBC researchers the builders merchant industry got a real plug on Saturday morning telly, too, during the live coverage on the BBC. I’m still not sure that the commentator, dulcet-toned Paul Dickenson (watching a rather slower paced event than his normal athletics!) completely understood the difference between builders and builders merchants, but TV coverage like that is worth having.

The new strapline – Supplying Britain’s Building Needs – emblazoned across the yellow rulers and hard-hats being waved and worn throughout the day seemed to do the trick. The Metro newspaper seemed to think so, anyway – it featured the 150 members and guests in the St Paul’s grandstand, all wearing their hats.

Despite the weather, it was a fabulous day. I’ve been attending the Lord Mayor’s Show in London for years and this Saturday was the rainiest I’ve ever seen it.

Even in years when the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants doesn’t have a float, it’s still well worth coming along and watching the parade. Many of the company officers walk it every year and so there’s always an opportunity to jump up and down screeching their names like an idiot until they finally turn round and wave at you.

Come on down next year – I promise you, it won’t always be as wet as that!

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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