On Saturday 12th November I had an excellent time marching proudly along at the front of the Hammersmith Academy float at the Lord Mayor's Show, with our sponsors the Mercers' Company and the Information Technologists' Company.
I say "float" because it was a float, in that it floated. An inspired idea by Master Mercer led to the creation of an inflatable balloon version of our school, held down by a number of sturdy Liverymen, selected for their natural ability to hold down inflatable floating schools. Along with thirty two students armed with rattles, plus teachers in gowns and Liverymen in robes, we made a very lively party.
We assembled early in Mercers' Hall and were treated to a sumptuous breakfast of sausages, bacon and egg washed down with lashings and lashings of tea, coffee and orange juice. Suitably fortified, we set off for our assembly point in to the snow blizzards and wild storms...okay I admit it, in to the rather pleasant, sunny November morning and prepare to wait around for an hour or so.
The Lord Mayor's Show has a history stretching back hundreds of years. For 785 years Lord Mayors have paraded from the City of London to Westminster to swear loyalty to the Crown, supported by the City's Livery companies. Today a wide range of floats join in, representing all aspects of City of London life. Tens of thousands of people line the route waving and cheering, politely of course as this is the Lord Mayor's Show after all. Someone described it to me as "[Notting Hill] Carnival for the middle class" although to be fair there were cheering onlookers from all walks of life.
Once we started parading, I realised that we were supposed to wave like royalty. I hadn't considered my waving strategy but quickly worked one out. Wave and smile, wave and smile. I discovered that you can make someone's day by selecting a random onlooker, looking in to their eyes and directing a wave and a huge smile STRAIGHT AT HER!
As we passed Mansion House, where the Lord Mayor himself raised his hat to greet us, I was accosted by Clare Balding of the BBC for a short interview about Hammersmith Academy. With me was an exceptional young lad, Frank. Before the interview, fearing that he might be a bit nervous I jokingly asked him "have you every been on TV before?". "Oh yes" he replied in a relaxed, almost off-hand manner, as if to say "of course I have, you funny old man, do you think you are the only person who appears on telly?"
In our 30 seconds of interview time, (at 50 mins 27 secs) I tried to get across how much I am fascinated by the combination of literally hundreds of years of City tradition with the most modern, exciting, high tech school in the country. Liverymen have been founding schools for over 500 years. We have founded this new one and it just blows my mind to know that in 500 years time our school, Hammersmith Academy will be back at the Lord Mayors Show celebrating its anniversary. Liverymen, selected for their natural ability, will probably be supporting a hovering hologram of the school using thought-projecting helmets, but the students will still have rattles and make lots of noise.
That's what I love about the City. When we say "a hundred years time" we mean a hundred years time. When we create schools, we build them to last. For us its not just a fad or the latest wheeze. It's our purpose. It's what we do.
It took about half an hour to get to our lunch stop. We parked our float and ran off, leaving the Liverymen tied to the balloon before there could be any suggestions of the rest of us taking our turn! Besides, I'm too light and would have blown away if there was a slight gust of wind. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Next to us was a military float. Their float didn't float. Because they had things that looked like tanks. They were probably armoured personel carriers but they looks like tanks to me.
Small boys eyed the tanks. Soldiers eyed the small boys. There was some uneasy shuffling on both sides. Then all of a sudden, excitable boys were being lifted on to tanks by proud soldiers whilst us adults looked on as if to say "errr, did someone allow for this in the health and safety manual and, errr, how do I get to climb on the tank too without looking like an idiot?"
We marched back, proud, tired, still waving, still looking people in the eye and finally came to the end of a marvellous day out. One young lad said to me "Are we nearly back?" Yes, I said, don't worry we've nearly finished. "Ohhh", he said "I don't want it to end."
Well, let me tell you. Economic crises will come and go. Government's will rise and fall. Wars will be fought. Men will land on Mars. History will sweep by. But the City of London will stand firm. The Lord Mayor's Show will parade. Hammersmith Academy will endure. Don't worry, lad. This is the City of London. It doesn't end.