Ever wondered what the Lord Mayor’s world is like?
Illustration: Becky Howes (cargocollective.com/beckyhowes)
When I was 11 years old, my father, a Justice of the Peace, was invited to the Lord Mayor’s House along with the rest of the family.
The event was a Christmas reception hosted by the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor’s Consort and the Deputy Lord Mayor. My mother, a staunch republican, scoffed when my father talked lovingly about the Lord Mayorship bestowed on Bristol by Queen Victoria and the Lord Mayor’s responsibility to host Royal visits. After this speech, I was none the wiser as to what the role meant.
“Is he in charge of Bristol then?” my brother asked.
“No, no, it’s more of a ceremonial thing. Even when chairing the council meeting…” my father began to reply.
“And who pays for it all and his time in the Mansion?” my mother interjected.
The look on my father’s face forbade further questions.
As we drove our Vauxhall Cavalier up the wide, leafy road near the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, the world surrounding us felt very different to our humble commuter satellite market town, some 20 miles away.
When we arrived, the opulence of the Mansion House intimidated my brothers and me as we gazed upon the high ceilings and oil paintings. We stared intrigued at other guests’ children wondering if, like us, they’d been forced to wear silly suits or whether that was their habitual gear.
Wandering around the bafflingly large stately house, I came across the kitchen as a harried-looking woman in a Bristol City Council-branded polo shirt bustled out, brandishing a pile of small papers.
She dropped two and I called to her, but she was gone.
I picked them up. It was a receipt which read:
“Guild of Guardian’s Dinner for 33 people – £1,225”
“Gosh,” I gasped, “that’s a lot of money!”
I felt a presence behind me, so I crunched the other receipt in my hand, and turned around.
It was the Lord Mayor. Grinningly resplendent in ermine robes and gold chain.
“Fear not, little one,” he boomed, “the TAXPAYERS will take care of THAT! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!”
I scuttled back to the party, told my mother what had happened and gave her the other receipt. It read “Tea and Biscuits for 81 people – £12.”
She pursed her lips and said: “I bloody knew it.”
This story of me at the Lord Mayor’s House is not true. But what it tells us about what the Lord Mayor of Bristol represents is true.