Every year, on the weekend closest to April 23rd, the Mayor throws a St George's Day bash in Trafalgar Square. Yesterday he threw a Feast of St George, or at least his underlings did - Boris probably only signed the piece of paper that paid for it all. And I'm guessing he agreed a slightly smaller sum of money this year. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, you understand, but the clues were there.
Your average Trafalgar Square knees-up celebration consists of some kind of entertainment on a stage beneath Nelson's Column, plus several stalls round the edge serving up food and beer. At the Feast of St George the focus of the event was the stalls round the edge, which was clever because it reduced the need to bring in proper entertainment. Instead of a stage there was a bandstand, and instead of well known names there was a lesser line up including Megan McCall and The Man From Archway. Again, not a problem, not least because lack of audience left the central section of the piazza free for picnic tables. Here sat the lady with the red cowboy hat and the punk with the red mohawk, plus all the ordinary people enjoying a sit down with the foodstuff of their choice. There were no noodles, which made a change. This was an entirely English affair, more the sort of stuff you might have guzzled at a village fete or opened at a picnic. Fresh lemonade was going down a treat, thanks to the weather being blue sky perfect, and there were muffins, cheese and chutney if you had the patience to queue to see what might be for sale on some of the stalls. Prices weren't cheap, with £2.50 for a single scoop of ice cream one of the more brazen offers successfully parting punters from their money. A lot of "hot meat in bread" was evident, as you'd expect, although none of the "dragon on a fork" suggested by the event's somewhat tasteless logo. Pie-based booths and hog roasts performed well, but the clear winner appeared to be the two chefs selling hot scotch eggs. Not for me, thanks, but runny yellow yolks in sausagemeat were everywhere.
Non-calorific activities were available. Children were well-catered for with a 'Dragon Training Camp' set up in front of the National Gallery, a lot of which appeared to involve colouring, but there was also a none-too-taxing treasure hunt to follow. A handful of mummers and knights in costume were wandering around and playing the hurdy gurdy to mild applause from the crowd slouched on the main steps. Red and white banners fluttered in the wind to add atmosphere, and a papier mache dragon glared from where the Christmas tree usually stands. In one over-stretched tent a series of chefs demonstrated "stuff they could cook", from pub kitchen favourites to posh chocolates. Elsewhere Jason had come along to explain about foraging in London and the Love Food Hate Waste team had free freezer-bag clips to dish out, in case your tastes were more towards austerity than excess. Oh, and there was no beer. Indeed there was nothing alcoholic on sale at all, which meant City Hall didn't have to barrier off the square and hire security guards to look stern at every entrance. St George got an off-the-shelf celebration this year, at minimal cost, and that seemed to work fine.