One of my photos

Seeing the Sultan’s Elephant

May 7th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 3 Comments · Life

I have been looking forward all week to seeing the Sultan’s Elephant up in London.

It even overshadowed the elections in my mind a bit – lets face it there are elections every year but the chances of getting to see another 40-foot high, time-travelling mechanical elephant again are pretty slim.

Jayne and I took the two youngest kids up by train (what a bargain! The child fare of £1 return includes travel on London Transport. It cost me a fiver just for a one-day 2-zone travelcard).

We had a look around the shops in Oxford Street, and then a bite to eat around Charing Cross and got to Trafalgar Square just in time to join the crowds for the elephant’s arrival.

I knew it would be a great spectacle but I did not expect it to be such an overwhelming, visceral experience. I don’t know if I am just over-sensitive to these things, but the sight of this huge contraption processing into the square, accompanied by a band on a truck playing a strongly rhythmic, drum-heavy, African-tinged tune made me feel very emotional.

I know it will sound like an over-reaction, and a blatant ploy to get in Pseud’s Corner but I had this feeling on first seeing the elephant, surrounded by such a mass of humanity, that I had been waiting all my life for that moment but just did not know it. It was almost spiritual.

Of course I had not a clue what was going on from a narrative point of view, but sometimes you just don’t need to. Its like listening to the song Mailaika, its powerful and emotional on a deeper level.

Another great pleasure was seeing Whitehall, Haymarket, Trafalgar Square, the Mall and other streets closed to traffic. It is always a strange feeling to see these normally busy streets reclaimed by pedestrians, who all look a lot happier to be there than the motorists normally are – and I have driven down all those streets in the past. This has always been an attraction of the various ban-the-bomb, scrap-the-poll-tax, anti-apartheid, anti-fascsist and other political marches I have been on in London, as well as the Gay Pride marches, and the millennium fireworks.

Of course the general mood was a lot better than at most political marches, although I can remember a reclaim the streets event in Victoria Street when I worked there years ago which had a party feel to it.

During our walking about, we did pass Downing Street, but decided not to offer any birthday greetings to Mr. Blair…

It was a great day out, despite having to travel up by train on one of my days off from the daily commute, these photographs of mine, and even the full-sized ones on Flickr really do not do justice to it.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • wongaBlog

    Sultan’s Elephant…

    I wish I could have been in London to see this:

    It walked around Whitehall!
    It was apparently a piece of street theatre by “Royal de Luxe”, who travel around major cities performing this act. Skuds was there, and has a good write up. The…

  • Lil

    Thanks for the great write up and pictures! A lot of people at work found it a surprisingly emotional experience too =)

    I’ve been obsessing over the event since I saw the promotional material, wish I could’ve gone!

  • TechniCool - Sydney

    This is fantastic. My brother from London sent me a DVD of this event and I have been busily telling people here in Sydney. It is diffic ult to describe in words. More pictures if the Sultans Elephant Jules Verne production here. Well done to Theatre De Lux and to London. Wish I had seen this for myself!