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City YMCA and been entertained by their resident street dancers, as well as witnessing the talent at the Central School of Ballet in Clerkenwell. As if that isn’t enough, I have accepted invitations to private tours of exhibitions, City projects and livery halls.

Interacting with children in Cidade de Deus in Brazil - Photo: Raquel Ferreira, Briitish

Consulate General, Rio de Janeiro

visited the St. Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney and shared tea, laughs and local gossip with a room full of Muslim elders at Toynbee Hall in Tower Hamlets, the residents of the Portsoken Community Centre in Mansell Street and the ladies at the Sir Ralph Perring Club on the Golden Lane Estate. I have spent a day at Treloars’ Disabled School, seen the Crimestoppers centre of operation in Surrey, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry going through their ‘disaster training’ paces at Bishopsgate Police Station, and visited the Bywaters Recycling Plant based in East London. I have received the annual ancient peppercorn rent from the staff of the

I have visited most, if not all of the Corporation’s Open Spaces, hand fed the lemurs on Hampstead Heath from inside the cage, and pollarded my very own tree up a ladder at Burnham Beeches. I was always warmly welcomed by the Chairmen and Superintendents, and always left with a sense of wonder at the passion and dedication of the Corporation Staff running these City treasures. In between all this excitement, I have been eating and drinking for City and Corporation. Most evenings the Lord Mayor and I, together with the Sheriffs and their consorts, dine in style in the Livery companies, either in their magnificent halls or in our equally splendid Egyptian Hall. Whether I will still know how a kitchen works when I get home remains to be seen and I must confess I am looking forward to several weeks of spag bol, baked beans and egg on toast.

But each Ward Club lunch and Livery celebration has a character of its own and is distinguished not by the food and wine, or even the glorious venue, but by the personal

connections, by a particularly amusing speech or by a sparkling musical interlude or quirky tradition. And so it is with the overseas visits which are a privilege too. By close of play on November 12th, I will have travelled with Nick to Florida, Texas and North Carolina, South Africa, Athens, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, followed by India, Oman and Kuwait. While the Lord Mayor is discussing high-level finance the cities we visit want to show off other things to the Lady Mayoress. I have seen amazing museums and art galleries, shown around by the curators, directors or owners.

I have visited hospitals, schools and charities all pleased to see me and grateful that I am taking an interest. I have walked through townships, fevelas and slums, talked with street kids, child prostitutes, innocent people coping with HIV and AIDS and children struggling with cerebral palsy in countries where they would rather it just went away. I have seen poverty, suffering and deprivation at its starkest, experiences never to be forgotten.

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However, without exception, the people I met were fiercely proud, consistently positive, vibrant and determined. And the welcome I received everywhere was warm and overwhelming.

Back at home, I have of course been living in 18th Century Neo- Palladian luxury and I will miss the Mansion House hugely. Here I have cupboard space to die for, my bed turned down every night and a chilled glass of wine on my dressing table every evening to fortify me for whatever event is next. I have been completely spoilt. But it is the staff whom I will miss most, who have supported, sustained, encouraged, nurtured, humoured, guided and served me so constantly, so tirelessly and so wonderfully. I have enjoyed every single

minute. Being Lady Mayoress has been energising, enlivening, completely absorbing and constantly surprising. An A* year in every respect.”

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