We are entranced. We have not stopped smiling or looking dreamy for days. If you didn't know us better you'd say we were in love, except that we are not suffering any of love's unease. Not a condition we admit to very often in this column. As a rule we come to bury wonder not to praise it. In a childish world someone has to do the dirty business of growing up. But this week we have rediscovered the child in our self (that's if you can rediscover what you never were) and are a-quiver with enchantment. The Sultan's Elephant is the cause. The mechanical contrivance, some 50 feet in height, complete with tusks and trunk and elephantine sadness, which roamed the streets of London for a weekend and stills roams the imaginations of those who saw it.
You will appreciate how beside our normal self we are when I say that we very nearly, for the duration of the elephant's stay, got the point of Ken Livingstone. Loose of tongue, slack of jaw, lumbering of attitude and posture, careless of whoever gets in his way, and dangerous to lose one's footing in the vicinity of - this is Livingstone I'm talking about, not the elephant - he nonetheless had the foresight to close central London to traffic for as long as it took the elephant to enjoy the city and the city to enjoy him, and for this, when he is consigned for all eternity to hell, I hope they give him the occasional cooling weekend off. Well, not weekend exactly' maybe half-hour. And not too cooling. A man whose brain boils with the impetuosity of prejudice does not deserve in the next life the temperateness he declined in this. But then again, he did let us have the elephant.
Central London without traffic is a marvellous place. Elephant or no elephant, it would be good, now we have seen how well it works, to close London to traffic one day a week. The motor car is a neurosis not a necessity. Millions of people still found a way of getting in. Shops stayed busy, cafs still spilled their customers on to the streets, but the difference this time was that you could stroll the city rather than have to dodge it, and it's only when you stroll a city that you truly enjoy its dimensions - the breadth of its boulevards, the plenty of its amenities, its rooftops, its vistas, and the easy companionableness, if you will only give them opportunity to express it, of its citizens.
If there was trouble on the weekend The Sultan's Elephant came to London I didn't see it. No one was competing with anybody: that helped. There was no trophy at stake. No tribe squared up to tribe. And no one plied us with liquor. But of course it was the elephant, ultimately - its pure, purposeless presence among us' street theatre without street theatre's usual agitating agenda - that soothed the savage breast. All those other considerations helped, but what made humanity benign for an hour was the grandest toy any of us had ever seen.
There is something about an elephant that brings out the best in people, ivory collectors apart. It's the size partly. As with whales and dinosaurs, the thought that life can fill up such a big space, that we share hearts and lungs with creatures built on such a scale, somehow …