I admit it–I “ego-surf” now and then. Searching for my own name last week, I discovered that the Lord Mayor of London is none other than Peter Levine. This eminent person (no relation) gave a speech in California entitled “We Reinvented Government Before You Did.” When English youths looted a McDonalds, he remarked, “These people, many with sincere points to make, allied themselves to a mob. The whole point they were trying to make has been lost.” As Yoggi Berra exclaimed when he found out that the Lord Mayor of Dublin was Jewish, “Only in America!”
The City of London, by the way, is the single square mile within Greater London that was originally settled by the Romans and then walled during the Middle Ages. The Lord Mayor is an honorary leader of this district, which has no real political autonomy. During the school year when I turned 7, and again when I turned 10, I attended the Prior Weston School, which was one of the very few state schools inside the City of London. In fact, it was almost underneath the Barbican, the huge (and terribly ugly) residential/arts complex that they were building in those years. Immediately next to the school was a bomb site, still left over from WWII, which we students wanted to turn into a nature sanctuary. (In the spring, it buzzed with life: bees, weedy flowers, centipedes, snails.) In the street outside the school, there was an old-fashioned vegetable market with produce on wheeled wooden “barrows” and grizzled old gents shouting their prices. We used to pick leftover lettuce and carrots out of the gutters to feed the school’s pet rabbits.
This was the seventies, and Prior Weston was a progressive school run by a Christian socialist named Henry Pluckrose. The student body was part genuine Cockney: working class kids born within the sound of Bow Bells. There were also yuppie families from Islington, which was then gentrifying.
I mention all this because we were taught a lot of local social history at Prior Weston, which made us feel like citizens of the ancient City. We went to see the new Lord Mayor in his gilded coach-and-six, but we also studied the more plebeian past of Celts and Romans, medieval guilds and town criers, friars and Knights of St. John, Dick Whittington and his cat, puritans and actors, plagues and fires, bells and town criers. So it doesn’t seem so very strange that my namesake is now the Lord Mayor.