We take citizenship ceremonies very seriously here in Kensington and Chelsea. Fortunately we have a team of registrars with the warmth and polish necessary to endow our ceremonies with the appropriate dignity. But sometimes a silver tongued registrar just isn’t available and when that happens it’s then up to one or t’other of the Council’s top brass to step up to the plate.
A couple of weeks back the job of officiating at the ceremony fell to me, and I don’t mind telling you that it was with some trepidation that I set out for the town hall wearing a morning suit that had somehow shrunk a size or two since I last wore it.
I feared a Rowan Atkinson-style fiasco of course but more than that I feared that in my hands the ceremony would be flat and perfunctory. By the time I got to the dais I was in a fair old sweat, not helped by the fact that I had mysteriously lost a couple of buttons from my waistcoat. But I needn’t have worried. The whole thing went swimmingly and not solely because of my dulcet tones, though undoubtedly they played their part.
The new citizens hailed from all parts of the world. They had dressed up, they had brought friends and relatives, they were taking pictures just like at a wedding or christening, they were happy, joyful even. They took the oath of allegiance loudly, clearly and proudly. And when the national anthem was played, several people were visibly moved. If truth be told I was a bit choked up myself, in fact for a second or two I thought I heard the distant strains of lark ascending playing in the next room.
It was an unforgettable occasion quite frankly and a useful reminder that while Britain spends a lot of time beating itself to a pulp over this or that, much of the rest of the world wants to come and live here and be British.