‘We’ve been in two hospitals all day and they’re not being bombed’

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 12, 2023

The City of London was gilded by November’s thin sunshine. Photo by Rashmee Roshan Lall

I happened to spend November 11, Armistice Day, in two hospitals in different parts of London, accompanying someone who needed attention.

The patient’s comment was striking:

We’ve been in two hospitals all day and they’re not being bombed, public transport is working and the shops are full of food.

Quite so.

This is not Gaza. The BBC is reporting that patients and refugees are trapped in “horrific conditions” in the besieged Palestinian territory’s largest hospital while fighting rages in nearby streets. It said: “Reports from inside the hospital paint a picture of horror and confusion, with regular fighting nearby, patients who have recently undergone operations unable to evacuate, and bodies piling up without any way to bury them.”

It was much different in London, where we were blessed to be because of dumb luck, the birth lottery, or what Warren Buffet once described as the defining moment in his immensely successful life – the good fortune of being born in the right country or the right circumstances.

Both London hospitals were dull in their daily busy-ness; the streets bright and gilded by November’s thin sunshine. Tourists wandered around, well-intentioned in their ignorance of place and ritual, ebullient about their chance to promenade, as one would on a stage, set for an histrionic event.

In fact, we unintentionally were at an histrionic event. We had stumbled on an ancient ritual in the City of London, by which I mean the ceremonial local government district that is regarded as the British capital’s central business district and was the original London from the time it was settled by the Romans.

It was the Lord Mayor’s Show, an annual civic procession that dates back to the 1200s and is meant to demonstrate the City of London’s separateness and fealty to the English monarch.

This year’s Lord Mayor’s Show was particularly significant because the City of London’s 695th Lord Mayor, Alderman Michael Mainelli, had taken office just the day before.

Amidst the jollity, it was hard not to think of the plight of the Gazan people and that there, but for the grace of God go I.