Getting the key to the city an enviable honour
BEING close to someone who is paid to write, my family and friends never know when I might use an experience that they have shared in my column. If it could be a sensitive issue, I always check first – people rarely say no.
When Bm@il was on the getwestlondon website I used to get responses from all over the UK, including my home town of Birmingham, and as far away as Australia where ex-pats like to check in on their former local area.
Last week I met a longstanding friend from Ruislip, who now lives in Taunton. She asks me to save copies of the Gazette and I am always amused as she scans them saying things like: “Ooh yes, I remember when you were sick after overdoing the alcohol and adrenalin when we went to New York (being a nervous flyer, I talked non-stop)”.
It was Marg who provided me with a carrier bag to protect the yellow cab’s interior.
But a real little gem fell into my lap the other day when I had lunch with two friends I taught with in Greenford, and I discovered that one of them is about to be granted the Freedom of the City of London.
Bobbie can claim the Freedom by patrimony, because her father became a Freeman in 1932 for his work at the Mansion House. The City, she said, has always meant a lot to her from his stories when she was young.
Excited by this news – and I confess a little envious – I thought I’d see if I could claim Freedom of the City of Birmingham. I mean who wouldn’t want the right to herd sheep over spaghetti junction and go up Corporation Street with a drawn sword?
The key to a city is granted to local residents who are held in high regard by the community – others are visiting celebrities or dignitaries. Well, I qualify in one area. I may have lived in west London very much longer than Brum – but I visit!
But as it was granted to Joseph Chamberlain in 1880, David Lloyd George in 1921 and Sir Simon Rattle in 1996, maybe not.
I’m really fed up now, particularly as I’ve discovered that Bobbie will even have immunity from pressganging, can be drunk and disorderly without fear of arrest and, if convicted of a capital offence, be hanged with a silken cord rather than the standard hemp rope.
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