It's not every day you get one of these through the post:
An invitation to see the next Lord Mayor of your city being installed is a rare thing indeed.
Mind you, it's not every day that the new Lord Mayor of your city - the second city of the UK, by the way* - happens to be your uncle. I know. Scary, isn't it?
So 4pm yesterday found us - my brothers and cousins, with partners - stood outside Birmingham Council House:
"That's some council house," someone said, "wonder what the monthly rent is on it?"
"Where's your dad right now?" I asked one of his sons.
"He's probably meeting up with the current Lord Mayor for a handover."
"I see. Handing over the nuclear codes and all that stuff."
"You've been watching too many episodes of The West Wing."
We were ushered in to meet the Lord Mayor-elect and Lady Mayoress-to be. Or Mick and Viv, as I've called them for much of the last 30-odd years.
Then into the Council Chamber where the business of several hundred AQIP (Actually Quite Important People) was going on. A fanfare of trumpets, ceremonial mace-carrier, and the current Lord Mayor came in. Apparently this happens all the time, if you're a civic leader.
"If Mick gets this treatment every time he walks into a room," someone whispered, "he's not going to be too popular down at the library."
After the speeches, proposals seconded and voted, the nuts and bolts of committee, family and friends were gently led back out again so the AQIPs could carry on.
Drinks reception at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery next door. Dignitaries, string quartets, but other than that, the place had hardly changed since the last time I was there. Sure, there were fewer gloomy school-visit teenagers, but otherwise identical.
And then to the Banqueting Suite. Over the years, the freedom of the city has been granted to various units of the armed forces. So there was a smattering of uniformed personnel around. Certainly not the sort of people I bump into when pushing a trolley around Aldi, that's for sure. My sister-in-law now precedes everything with, "As I was remarking to the Colonel the other day...."
What this photo from the dinner doesn't show is the new Lady Mayoress having to employ two telephone directories under her feet as she couldn't reach the ground while she was in this chair. I sincerely hope they were Birmingham telephone directories.
A great day for all concerned. And, to be honest, after the events of December any family get-together that doesn't involve a visit to a crematorium is a bonus.
With everything else on their minds (this is a Very Big Thing Indeed, after all) the fact that my aunt and uncle thought to invite us nephews along was really quite amazing. Before they jumped on the express train that is the Mayoralty, I know they used to read this, so in May 2010 when things revert to normal they'll hopefully catch up and see me saying "Thanks".
I suspect there should be a 'Right Worshipful' in there at some point.
*(As you were, Manchester, as you were.)