Wednesday 7th June 2017
The cycle of the Livery Movement stops for no man and so, 108 blog entries later, I find I am writing my last one. Arriving at 2.30pm in good time for a 3.00pm run though with the Wardens, the Clerks and Beadle had been hard at it for some time, setting up the splendid dining room for the evenings dinner. Skinners' is a fine old hall, located between Dyers' and Tallow Chandlers' on Dowgate Hill, it dates from 1670 having been rebuilt, as the others were, after the Great Fire. It has a charming Court room with an enormously heavy Master's chair. We ran through our procedures under the Clerk's keen eye and had plenty of time to enjoy a cup of tea when it arrived, and one last end-of-year shot of me with the chaps before I head for the back benches. We had a good turnout as one would hope and, before we began the meeting proper, Past Master Fiona Adler presented the Court with a beautiful carved knightshead table pipe in memory of her father, John. It's a lovely object and we hope to incorporate it into future meetings, or even at banquets as it really deserves to be seen - I will upload a snap as soon as I can find one. With that done, the rest of the meeting ran smoothly and to time. I ended my year by presenting the Company with a third ram's horn snuff mull which ensures that we now have enough for each branch at our dinners. With Court proper finished, I exited with the Wardens and there was a short pause to adjust gowns and badges for the installation procedure and for any guests to join us around the edge of the room. For this, just myself and three Wardens process, and I asked the Court if it was their wish that I install Ralph, the Senior Warden (who was waiting outside with no gown or badge) as their new Master – happily assent was given by Rolf Christophersen, and the Beadle escorted Ralph in and the Clerk administered his oath. Whilst this was going on, I quietly left the Master's chair and, with the aid of the Assistant Clerk, removed my gown and badge, with which I then adorned Ralph. He then escorted me to a side seat and assumed the Master's Chair. Now installed he then installed his Wardens – our new 4th is Jerry Merton who brings a famous family name back on the succession – he will be the 3rd Merton Master when his turn comes in four years’ time. With this procedure done, we went on to enjoy Ralph's first reception and dinner – but that is not my story to tell and my blog ends with me on the side table – I will only add that the new Master was kind enough to present me with my Past Master's badge at dinner.
On a final note, I wish to record mine, and Camilla’s, thanks to the Livery for being so supportive and helpful over the past year – we’ve been hugely privileged and are very grateful. I know Ralph and Maureen will be a terrific Master and Mistress and am looking forward to their year enormously – and wish them every success with it all!
Tuesday 6th June 2017
Readers with keen memories may recall I attended this lunch last year to present the prize and wonder why I'm here again before my year is over.. It seems the booking had to be made for an earlier date and so, whilst this is usually one of the first post-Iron Bridge functions the Master performs, our Senior Warden Ralph Edmondson was given a taste of things to come as he dined at top table with the Guest Speaker, Alexander Armstrong, and also presented the prize for Best Tobacconist of the Year – I was very content (still with a chest cold) to sit on the Livery table and take a back seat. It had been teeming with rain all morning and, as I planned to drink very little on account of the cold, we drove to St. John’s Wood and were able to bag a space within the grounds – pays to be a little cheeky sometimes! The Harris Garden, scene of so many great champagne cigar receptions, was forlorn and silent as the wind gusted around us. We found a few hardy types – including Alexander, and David Lewis, puffing away on large cigars but with nothing to drink. Ditching our coats, the Mistress and I found a water machine, pinched some plastic cups and had four filled in the Long Bar which was packed with non-smoking smokers – back outside we gave Alexander and David a welcome glass and enjoyed a few pleasant minutes (with many interruptions for autographs and selfies for Alexander) before Roger Merton, one of the key organisers, announced it was time to drink up and find tables for lunch. Roger, Alexander and Ralph were announced and applauded in to our splendid Long Room venue and we settled to dine. We had members of the Livery spread over several tables which was good, and on ours Colin Ritchie stood a bottle of claret which did us very well. We enjoyed asparagus with poached egg; fillet of beef and a curious coconut mousse upon which the jury’s still out. With that dispatched, we had a 15 minute smoking break and I was very pleased to have a few minutes with Jemma Freeman and her team from Hunter Frankau and others of our Livery including Derek Harris and Tony Scanlon. On returning we found coffee and chocs awaited and then the Master of Ceremonies announced that... it was Sally Brookes (soon-to-be next years Mistress, and Roger Mertons daughter) birthday, much to her horror we then sang to her and she was presented with a cupcake! The MC next announced Alexander Armstrong and we enjoyed about 20 mins of anecdotes before he concluded with a short round of Pointless - not something I’ve ever seen, so had no idea how it worked! Ralph was summoned to assist and it was him v. the Room for a bottle of warm fizz – he lost, just! With that all done, we had the raffle (last year I won a humidor of cigars) but my number didn’t come up so the AITS Chairman, Paresh Patel wound the proceedings up and we drove back home – now in lovely fresh sunshine – at about 4.15 in time for a welcome cup of tea!
Thursday 1st June 2017
With our own installation dinner excepted, this was my last formal dinner as a Livery Master and what a one to go out on! The Vintners are an ancient company (Royal Charter 1363) and their Hall on the banks of the Thames was where all the wine for London was imported and stored in their capacious cellars. The original hall was lost in the Great Fire, however this 1671 rebuild is quite splendid and remains much as it was back then. The only (unseen) difference was that in the mid 1930’s the roof had a nasty attack of Death Watch beetle and the surveyors suggested replacing it with a concrete roof (something which would be impossible now) with the unexpected benefit that, come World War Two, the incendiary bombs that would have reduced it to ashes again, bounced off and the building was saved except for a few window panes – the treasures having been removed to safety anyway. It was a fine evening and a pleasant stroll from Mansion House station to Vintners Place. Met on the door by a wine porter in his uniform and silver badge of office, we were subsequently met by Swan Uppers (this is one of three Livery Companies that audit the Swans annually on the Thames) and Barge Master, all looking splendid. Met by Master Robert Rolls, his Mistress and Wardens (but sadly not their 3rd Warden, a certain Alderman Dr. Andrew Parmley...), there was a lively Bollinger reception afoot and into which I was soon swept up with the Master Wheelwright. As one might expect the Vintners members are excellent company and don’t stand on ceremony and it was all too soon before we were gavelled to dine downstairs. The dining room is quite lovely and has a plaque recording the night when no less than five Kings once dined in it together. There are some very amusing carved masks under the windows which sequentially run clockwise, the first being a beautiful young lady, by the time you reach number five she’s like Mrs Slocombe! Obviously the 17th Century carver had a keen sense of humour! I was sat in the middle of the middle branch next to the IPM Vintner Simon Leschallas (who gamely enjoyed a pinch of snuff after the Loyal Toasts) and a member who was in the trade as a producer. All the wines were introduced by a member before we started and accompanied some fine fare: Crab and Foie Gras Terrine (2015 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay Hill-Smith Estate); Rubia Gallega Beef Fillet (2002 Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron 2eme Cru Classe, Pauillac); Lancashire Rarebit; Pear, Almond & Elderflower (2003 Chateau de Fargues Lur-Saluces 1er Cru Classe, Sauternes); 1997 Graham’s port; 1976 Hine Grande Champagne Cognac, landed 1979 bottled 1993. With that all done, we sang grace and had a Loving Cup before some light operatice entertainment by The Rose Quartet who had some fun strolling up and down the branches – they were enthusiastically received. Then the toasts and speeches began; The principal guest was the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency The Hon Alexander Downer, AC who spoke very sensibly about reinforcing our historic trade links in a post-Brexit era, and of course managed one or two well aimed sporting jibes as no Australian can speak in public without some of those – it was all taken in the spirit intended and received long applause as well it might. The Master rounded proceedings up very eloquently and finished on a good joke before the head table removed themselves to the Court room where a stirrup cup was being served. Having enjoyed a quick catch up with one or two Masters I’d not had a chance to before dinner, the splendid marquetry longcase clock in the corner (presented in 1704) indicated it was nearly 11pm and time to potter off. It was such a balmy night I chose to walk along to Embankment and enjoy a small cigar along the river front, a fine end to a fine evening and, by the grace of an Uber I was home before the witching hour.
Tuesday 30th May 2017
Each Livery has its own ‘Master's event' – many go away on long weekends to exotic locations, or use their own fabulous halls to host some spectacular entertainment. We’ve yet to delve into these realms and so every year the Master organises a bit of a do at some interesting location, often a museum, and we have seen some fascinating places over the years. Indulging my personal interest in silent cinema, I chose the Cinema Museum in Kennington, a museum co-founded about 25 years ago that not only maintains a film archive and substantial library, but all the paraphernalia associated with the cinemas of yesteryear – signage, posters, uniforms, projectors etc. It’s located in the chapel of what used to be the Lambeth Work House (c.1871) a building that became a hospital when the work house closed in 1922 (yes, that late!) and which was latterly absorbed into the NHS until the early 2000s. The main problem is it’s slightly obscure location in a nest of streets about 10 minutes’ walk from Kennington tube station. The answer was to use a bus and, through a pal at the London Bus Museum, I managed to get a 1961 Routemaster to meet us at St. Lawrence Jewry. We were about fifty in total with everyone was asked to muster by 5.45 for a prompt 6pm departure and (one thing I’ve noticed about Liveries) everyone was assembled and aboard on time. Our Chaplain had kindly chilled a case of Prosecco I'd sent him for us all to enjoy aboard - and we’d nearly dispatched the lot as we arrived at the museum just 25 minutes later! We were blessed with fine evening sunshine throughout (after a very overcast day -- the Chaplain had obviously had a word..) and so were able to use the little garden adjacent to the museum for more drinks and a little ‘interval’ cigar kindly provided by Jemma Freeman. Once everyone's glass was charged and cigar lit, I introduced Martin Humphries, one of the co-founders, who gave us a potted history of the museum and the building it’s now contained in – the most famous ‘resident’ was a young Charlie Chaplain who accompanied his mother there when her funds ran out (after a glittering music hall career, she lost her voice) in a tale that really makes you realise that however bad things may seem sometimes today, we’ve no real idea of the sheer grinding poverty endured by so many at the apex of our Imperial past when we were supposed to be one of the wealthiest countries on earth. With our cigars smoked but retaining our glasses we trooped inside for a look at the exhibits before going upstairs to the impressive and very spacious chapel which has seating, tables and a bar and servery. Everyone soon settled somewhere and I introduced Martin again, and also Lillian Henley, our pianist for the evening. I'd asked Kevin Brownlow (the film historian, who was sadly called away at the last minute) and Martin to give us tobacco-related films as far as possible, but to include one Chaplin short in deference to the location. We then enjoyed two halves of about 45 minutes each which comprised:
Admiral Cigarette advert 1897
Breathe of A Nation 1919
Cultivation of Tobacco 1909
Harold Lloyd in Among those Present 1921
A Voyage to Jupiter 1909
Charley Bowers in There it is 1928
Chaplin in The Cure 1917
Between halves, we enjoyed a good meal of Coq au Vin followed by Eton Mess with enough time for those who wished to pop out for a puff after, and the bar had plenty of cold beer which proved popular for the second half. Lillian’s accompaniment lifted these old titles from their dusty graves and everyone was infected with the spirit of another, perhaps simpler, age - the clip I've appended has no music so you'll have to make your own! With the films done, I presented Martin and Lillian with a souvenir clay pipe to remember us by and we went and found the bus which had cleverly turned itself around and was waiting with the engine running – we were able to improvise a stop at Blackfriars on the return and all but fifteen or so disembarked there. We ended back at SLJ’s at about 10.40 which was much as anticipated. Despite a flourishing cold, I admit I enjoyed it all immensely, and thank the Livery and their guests for supporting me at my last event.
Wednesday 24th May 2017
Each livery has its own way of disposing of its Masters and, in ours, the Wardens take the Master and Mistress out for a slap up meal somewhere a bit 'up market'. Always organised by the Senior Warden, Ralph had chosen the popular and very fine Coq D'Argent, located on the roof of No.1 Poultry and, when in residence, managed by our liveryman, Sean Gavin. It is blessed with fine outside seating areas and a heated terrace and so has become extremely popular with smokers of all hues as one might imagine. Meet for aperatifs around 7.15, Ralph pressed a mellow cigar into my hand which went down very well before we went through to our table at 8pm. Usually this dinner is hosted by just the Wardens, but this year as a special exception, the IPM, Chris Allen and his wife Mary joined us too which was very pleasant - who knows, they may have added to our list of traditions (we'll see..!). We all dined famously well and Ralph, who has an eye (or tongue?) for wine chose some lovely bottles. I was sat between Maureen, incoming Mistress, and Sally Brookes (and of course a Merton by any other guise) and enjoyed some very convivial chats with both. It was pretty late when we broke up (3rd Warden Andrew Golding had already left for a train) and Ralph suggested a night cap on the terrace to which I was pleased to offer a choice of cigars. I was surprised to find it was just past midnight when we finally rose and said our farewells. Thank you boys for a lovely evening -- I hope Ralph is as lucky next year!
Tuesday 23rd May 2017
Parking in Gresham Street, the hall is just a short walk and so dressed somewhat magnificently, if less my topper, the Mistress and I entered via a small marquee located to the right of the main building and ran straight into the Master Pewterer, Rod Kent whom I’ve mentioned before is a fellow 18th Century lover. He found us both a drink and, with a few interruptions, gave us the ‘Masters Tour’ of this charming exhibition – and yes, it’s a selling exhibition down stair and prize display upstairs. I encouraged Rod to take us to the main event upstairs first (!) and we saw some very fine and novel examples of the art – some of it provided by fellow liverymen. There was clever table by a Furniture Maker with a pewter-lined flip top, but I neglected to snap it; Chris Histead, Master IT Pro had entered some very good pendants inspired by Neolithic arrow heads (which I understand have won the Masters Prize) and there were some very clever lamps too. Although we arrived towards the end of the evening (about 7.15, it was due to last until 8.00) I caught up with several other Masters – and one or two IPM’s – around the room including Richard Fleck (Tallow Chandler) whom I insisted on showing the remarkable Punta Cana hoard now permanently displayed there. Whilst I was circulating, Camilla was buying and came away with a very pretty pewter leaf key fob, in fact several Masters were buying their official gifts there too.. As we were thinking of leaving we bumped into Bindy, the Mistress who’s always very welcoming. We got back to the car by 8.40 and were home half and hour later, pretty well done in, and had a light bite having finally changed from our garden party finery!
Tuesday 23rd May 2017
Tea with the Queen is not something I’d ever envisaged, however, part of the package of being a Livery Master is an invitation to one of the three huge teas served at Buck House each season. You have a choice of dates and, assuming one works for you, are sent a pack of data in advance along with a parking permit should you need it. As each tea attracts somewhere in the region of 5000 people these days it can be a bit of a scrabble however you choose to get there.. We were informed that the doors would open at 3pm with HMQ attending from 4pm with Prince Philip. As we were going on to Pewterers’ Live afterwards, we elected to drive and arrived hatted, spatted and badged around 3.30pm and strode down The Mall with tourists snapping us as we passed. The weather was warm but very overcast and as a precaution I carried a brolly as it was definitely ‘in the air’. Having cleared security with a lot of other well-dressed types, we passed through the inner courtyard and into the palace proper and out the other side to be confronted by a huge swell of people waiting for HMQ to appear in front of us. Diverted to the right, we loitered near a very good band tent (one of two at opposite ends of the garden, they alternate music throughout). On the dot of 4pm the Royal party arrived and stood at the top of the steps for a minutes silence to commemorate the Manchester atrocity. After a minute, the National Anthem was played by the band near us and was followed by a round of applause as they passed down a carefully selected avenue of invitees selected to (possibly) meet Her Majesty. The next tune the band played was the 007 theme tune - impressively, moments before, the news of Sir Roger Moore's death had flashed across our iPhones and they'd responded instantaneously - did they remember the music?! Whilst this was going on the Mistress and myself took a tour of the 40 acres of manicured gardens – what a spectacular sight they were! A lovely summerhouse complete with novelty cane work corgi, discreetly obscured tennis courts, a rose garden etc., all well away from the famous lake where HMQ used to keep her flamingos. We could both have spent a lot longer enjoying them, but felt we ought to return and find a cuppa at some point! Coming round the back of the pond, we found ‘our’ tea service tent (there are three, one for the Royal Party, one for the Corps Diplomatique, and the rest of us) an enormous affair with tea and cake stations running the full length and lemonade at each end. It doesn’t take long to get served as it’s so efficient, but I rather wished I’d started a little earlier as shortly after we’d had some, they finished serving and ice creams were being circulated on trays. We bumped into two a couple of other masters (Wax Chandler; Engineer) whom we enjoyed a chat with, and had time to roam around soaking up the atmosphere. The Queen sits in a cordoned off tent with a crown atop of it until about 5.30 when she exits. At 6pm the National Anthem is played once more and that concludes the formal proceedings. By mid-afternoon the sun had broken through and it was warming up nicely, how the Victorians thought waistcoats and top hats were ever going to be cool summer wear I’ll never know, but we only removed said hats for the 1mins silence and the National Anthem. A little after six, still in company with the Master and Mistress Engineer, we shuffled out – we were halted by the steps to allow the congestion to be relieved and before we started again, one of the red-uniformed officers doing crowd control shouted ‘use the door on the right as well – it’s still red carpet with pots and paintings!’ which gave us a good laugh. We were held up again for the same reason in the front courtyard but finally broke free and strode down The Mall to the car with which we drove to Pewterers’ Hall – it took a good while to get out of the Mall, but once through Admiralty Arch it was plain sailing..
Monday 22nd May 2017
The Sheriffs are kind enough to invite Livery Masters and other guests on a rotation basis to the daily Judges lunch in the Old Bailey. It was my happy task to accept Alderman and Sheriff William Russells invitation to todays and presented myself at the Judges entrance at 12.30 as requested, along with George Harris, Master Poulter (who caught me parking at Stationer's Hall) and William's half-brother, the actor Damian Lewis who had taken time from his West End run of The Goat at the Theatre Royal Haymarket to join us. Alas, it didn't seem appropriate to take photographs so these are off the web to give an idea.. We met in Williams suite - which happened to be Fiona Adlers old one so I'd seen it once before - for a glass of champagne served by William in full shrival fig. Recent rules changes mean that this was the only sauce we were likely to see as wine is now banned from Judges lunches - yes, the boring modern world getting in the way, again I'm afraid.. I don't think we'll be happy until we're housed in containers and fed intravenously, but that's for the future. We filed into the dining room (used by PM Mark Gower Smith for his Masters Reception if members recall) and I sat between a The Hon Mrs Justice Maura McGowan and His Hon Judge Michael Topolski - all the Judges had just left their bences and so were gowned in either red or black and all wore their horse hair wigs (apparently full bottom wigs are no longer used in Court which is a shame). We dined on a grilled chicken and artichoke salad and lemon posset followed by cheese and coffee, all very pleasant. Just before 2pm (these lunches are an hour, no more no less) we all left and four guests (not Damian) visited Court 18 for a murder trial where the accused was being cross-examined, rather tamely in my view, but I suppose we're used to Rumpole etc. After an hour and with the jury visibly bored ridged, we broke and George and I broke away. It was all most interesting, thank you William.
Friday 19th May 2017
Having had a long day with a late night and an early start in prospect, we decided to order breakfast in our room as we had to leave all our luggage with reception and be on a bus by 9am. As I’ve mentioned before, anything ‘Livery’ leaves on time or early, I’ve never known anyone late for anything involving a coach trip! On the stroke of 9 two coaches pulled out for rotating visits to two factories, both part of the Gripple Group – I think I understood this correctly, but this group is now, like John Lewis, worker owned having been turned over to the workforce by the founder xxx Vaisey. Thus, each new worker buys shares before he starts which gives them a vested interest not to shirk or cheat – perhaps this is communism as it’s meant to be? Anyway, the factories we visited were state of the art affairs and seemed the acme of efficiency and productivity for a wide variety of products – injection moulded storage boxes and patented bottle stands, metal brackets, woven belting, robotics… all the raw materials and processes sourced in Yorkshire. They have designers (not boffins, apparently!) on hand to design around problems and come up with new products – in fact they have a charter which states that they (the group) need to introduce new products at the rate of 25% every four years to keep them on their toes and find new markets etc. I must say it was all very impressive. After the first set, we then went to the Gripple riverside factories where there mainly produce the “Gripple” – this is the ‘acorn’ that founded the whole group when, back in (I think 1980 or so) Mr Vaizey was in Australia chatting to a sheep farmer who lamented that one of his life’s banes was joining fence wire together as it involved sort of knotting it in a very unsatisfactory way.. Mr V had a think and came up with a tiny, simple and cheap device that solved the problem at a stroke and became required in such demand this factory is dedicated to turning out thousands in a variety of sizes. They are routinely tested for strength and we watched as one wire was shredded rather than the gripple devise letting slip its charge – very impressive. The combines sites were quite a revelation and really gave one an insight into the manufacturing heartlands and ingenuity this country can provide – if we can harness and expand these principals, we’re a massive force to be reckoned with. When the visits were done, we were bussed back to Cutlers Hall for a quick drinks reception then semi-formal light luncheon of cottage pie and posset. I sat next to Mrs Gardner, the Clerks wife and we had a very pleasant chat before the speeches and farewells rounded it all off. After lunch all the Halls had been opened for our inspection and we took a quick look round before repairing back to the hotel and collecting the motor for a w/e in the Peak District and a view of Chatsworth, a long-held ambition for us both. We got home on Sunday at 5pm and 425 miles later to a welcome cup of tea!
Thursday 18th May 2017
Having had a very quiet evening the night before, we now had to pack the car with a hillside of kit and set off for Sheffield mid-morning. The Master Cutler reciprocates hospitality with about twenty City liveries in a vast white tie spectacular in the massive Cutlers Hall complex in the centre of Sheffield. Many of these Masters had taken advantage of an offer to travel first class on the train for a greatly discounted rate and party all the way up if they wish. The Mistress and I elected to drive so we could take advantage of the time and place and do some sightseeing afterwards and went prepared for a long weekend of it. Having lodged ourselves in the Mercure Hotel and changed into white tie with badges, we were collected by coach for the short run round the corner – had it not been raining, many of us would have been content to walk it, but it was a steady / heavy drizzle. Arriving at Cutlers Hall, there was a fine carpet guard of marines up the entrance staircase which we slowly progressed up to meet Master Richard Edwards, his wife and Wardens. Moving into a large salon for a glass of fizz, we were hosted by a Past Master who informed us that technically the Cutlers were created uniquely by an Act of Parliament and so weren’t a Livery, although similar in nearly all other respects. It was a huge do and I think some six hundred were being entertained, so timings were important – I think some guests were still ‘arriving’ as we were gavelled through to dinner. The dining room is simply vast, I think larger than anything we have in London except perhaps Guildhall, and was packed tonight. Sitting next to a nurse called Sharron from Essex and an industrialist heavyweight in the form of Sir Andrew Cook, I enjoyed divergent company. Sir Andrew loves naval history and we were soon swapping anecdotes and useful sources of information. We enjoyed a fine meal of cured trout, beef fillet, raspberry torte and ice cream and a savoury of dressed crab on soda bread, all very agreeable indeed. The evening was punctuated by a police quartet on bugles and trumpets who announced all the important moments with piercing fanfares, all very impressive and better than a mere gavel! They were up in the minstrels gallery which was right by us so we had a good view! The speeches did their job with an emphasis on the current state of the nation and things to come etc. and were wound up by someone gently pulling the Masters leg as they went back some way together. With dinner done and the Master and principals exited, we repaired to the earlier salons via some displays of superb Sheffield craftsmanship for a stirrup cup. As it was still raining hard, we shared a cab back with the Master from Trinity House in Hull and he and I stayed up for a nightcap with several other Masters.. one became two, and then three… another late night and we had a works visit at 9am, so I made my excuses at 1ish an turned in, pretty well shattered..
Wednesday 17th May 2017
According to my notes I had to be at H&H by 6.30am so, rising at 5.15 I managed to make myself presentable after the previous night’s revels. The forecast was pretty grim – steady rain all day it seemed and certainly I heard torrents coming down during the night. Still, in this country there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing to make the best of it, so I went armed with an array of coats and cladding so I could adjust as required and, thanks to the painfully early start, found myself arriving at H&H just before 06.30 and was rewarded with a plumb parking spot on asphalt right by the check in and dining tents. Our team consisted of myself, Past Master John Nokes, 4th Warden Adam Bennett, and Liveryman Paul Taberer. Having checked the team in I sent a round-robin text to meet them all inside for breakfast – amazingly it all worked like clockwork and we had our coffee and butties etc in comfort and bumped into old chums – including Archie Smith who was there as a Shipwright of course. A little past 8am we were invited to start shooting – the rain had almost packed up so we were able to wear our team smoking caps – but had back up caps should it start up again. The trouble with shooting here once a year is that it takes a while to get ones eye back in so we all experienced some mixed results with the early ‘birds’ – as has been mentioned in every account of this event before, the Gun Makers’ company enter about eight teams of crack shots, so there’s never any expectation of winning or even coming close, but the upside is that one can relax and just enjoy the day and each other’s company, which is just what we did. The whole day is organised by the ever-busy Environmental Cleaners (Livery Halls Walk; Cricket to come we hear..) and each team of four shoots four-pair at ten birds, plus the ‘flurry’ which is so fast and furious loaders are needed and even then it’s almost too fast to get the barrel up in time. The showers came and went meaning we had several changes of headgear and, frustratingly, no time to enjoy a cigar as there’s no way we could keep it alight. Eventually Adam and I resorted our pipes which, when the rain was very hard, I smoked upside down – an old trick saw years ago – and which works very well. We managed to get through several of the stands pretty quickly, but for some reason some of them became jammed up, we couldn’t think how or why, but it always happens, and can take half an hour to get through – ideal for a cigar when dry – but also gave us ample time to take some group snaps. I was very pleased at one stand (one of the hardest) to bump into IPM Env Cleaner Philip Morrish, old pal of my circuit – he was deputising for this year’s Master and presenting the prizes. He looked very well – ‘do you shoot’ I asked – ‘not blooming likely’ he responded! Well, we finally finished our ‘birds’ – and in the nick of time, the showers were becoming torrents again and John had lost his flat cap – and was refusing to get his new velvet one wet! Back we went to the comforts of the dining tent and a welcome glass of beer (thank you Paul). I spotted Archie seated at his table and flogged him a smoking cap to the great envy of his team mates who swore to have an equivalent made forthwith.. we’ll see.. The buffet always servers a superb salt beef, roast beef and spitted hog – and every year, everyone shamelessly has all three. Once we’d eaten our fill of that and the pud and cheese, we decided it was time to call it a day – no point in hanging around to applaud a parade of gun maker’s, it’ll be the same lot as every year anyway and we all had places to go so we bade our fond farewells and set off into the still sheeting rain – thank God I’d parked so close! Despite the rain, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I hope that we’ll have enough to enter two teams one year..
Tuesday 16th May 2017
I met this Companies genial Master fairly recently, I think it may have been at the Air Pilots lecture, and (noting he was a keen smoker) we got on very well. To save time, I travelled in by motorbike and parked in Wood St. which gave me a couple of minutes stroll with a pipe before arriving at BS Hall which has been covered in previous entries (it stands within the ruins of its Blitzed forebear). Having dropped off the coat, we queued to meet Master Tony Steinthal and his wardens before going into a pretty busy salon where I chatted with some of the Court members when the Beadle announced that as we were all here, the rest of the Hall would now be opened and we could inspect the entries for some prizes due to be announced at dinner. I went over and took in a table of varied art forms from porcelain to varied metal work, much of it produced from recycled materials, along with the various creators. We were called to dinner shortly after and I hung back to process with Tony, various other Masters including the Principal Guest, Robert Woodthorpe Brown, the Master World Trader who I’ve seen a good deal of this year as another ‘Modern’ Master. The dining arrangement had been reversed since we last used this hall under PM Chris Allen and the Master chair was backed into the window bay.. I soon discovered this was no idle whim as Tony discreetly nipped out for a puff two or three times during the course of the evening! I think I was one of only two or three to notice. We enjoyed a good dinner of asparagus with poached egg, lamb and pavlova with dessert wine and cognac with our coffee/petit fours. The guests were introduced, not by name but livery occupation and then Robert spoke with good humour and intelligence for his allotted 10 mins before Tony responded with equal aplomb and also presented the aforementioned prizes. We then had a little musical interlude – the pianist seems to have been one of their scholars and a favourite as she has apparently done several function for them. I was intrigued to see she read her music from a large iPad which she was able to turn the pages very quickly with, with just a flick of her finger – very impressive, and so logical – no need for a page turner or lamp etc., very clever indeed. Tony soon drew proceedings to a close and we repaired to the anteroom for a stirrup cup – and I for a quick smoke with Tony in the garden. Before long it was time to wend my way as I had a early start the next morning, and so I found the bike and was home within half an hour and getting ready for the inter livery shoot…
Friday 12th May 2017
Several Livery Companies have forged links with this excellent regional Livery – our Tobacco connection with Bristol ensures that we keenly endorse our fraternal bonds at reciprocating banquets. Whilst similar in many respects, the essential differences are that the Merchant Venturers number around eighty in total, membership is by invitation only and you have to be a local with a strong track record of good works – but this small group educates some 3000 children which is quite remarkable! Their original Hall was, like so many of London’s, lost in the War but not before they’d preserved their art and chandeliers so, when they bought a couple of large Victorian villas in Clifton and knocked them together, they were able to reinstate their superb set of 1790’s English chandeliers and some very fine art, much of it maritime… All the guests were lodged at the Avon Gorge Hotel in Clifton and the MVs had laid on taxi buses to ferry us to and from the Hall. As mentioned previously, we had left London around 3.30pm and arrived at the hotel at 6.50pm giving us about half an hour to get into white tie which was accomplished with about 5mins to spare! The Hall is charming – hard to tell that it’s a conversion from the inside, but we were warmly greeted by their Master, Cullum McAlpine, and his Mistress Amanda. Our host was Stephen Parsons who ensured our champagne glasses never ran dry and who was very interesting about the Company and various artefacts he saw me admiring. We were gavelled in all too soon (perils of being on the second bus!) and found ourselves in an elegant dining room with one long ‘top’ table and three circular ‘branches’ behind in window bays. After Grace, we were treated to poached turbot; loin of lamb and peach Melba panna cotta, washed down with an exceptional 2002 St Julien – we were deeply spoilt and I made good friends with the sommelier very quickly! My companions were Sir David Wills and last year’s Master, Sir Tim Ross, and I recall we had a very jolly time of it indeed! The Principal Guest was the ‘Brexiteer’ economist Roger Bootle whose wise words were largely endorsed by the room with perhaps the unofficial opposition of the Lord Lt, Mrs Peaches Golding OBE, who in a Sir Francis Urquart type of way said ‘I can’t possibly comment..’ thereby saying it all! After dinner there was a lengthy stirrup cup where I was able to meet Mr Bootle and endorse his view that there’s pain to come, but ok in the long run. I was also able to offer my snuff box and was pleased that several sportingly tried a pinch, including the High Sheriff of Bristol, Anthony Brown, who was in full civil fig and looked like he should be a natural – which he was, nearly. Sadly the evening had to come to an end at some point and so at about 11.30pm we went to find the taxi bus back to the hotel and here I caught up with the London Masters and Clerks for a very lively nightcap – Master Draper William Charnley stood me a pint and I offered cigars on the terrace. Finally it was time to call it a day and so at around 12.30 it was up the wooden hill and so to bed.. thank you Merchant Venturers for an exceptional evening of fine company and hospitality.
Friday 12th May 2017
We were deeply saddened as a Livery to learn of John’s death in March this year – he was universally beloved and happened to be the chap who introduced me to the Company. He played a huge and varied role over the years and only stopped attending Court within the last year. He is, and will be, greatly missed as a wise friend to all always with a sage word or observation. This service was a chance for us to come together to mourn his untimely passing and hear the family share some of the many good times they had with him. We welcomed the Lord Mayor and his wife who sat with the Mistress and myself at the front by the sword rest and, during the service, two Guildhall students performed one of John’s favourite pieces of music – Now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navee from Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ – it was all the LM and myself could do not to join in the chorus responses (and I rather think John would have been tickled if we had!). As usual with this sort of service, the person who would have enjoyed it most couldn’t join us, but we were with him in spirit and know that, wherever he is now, he’ll be making the best of it and hopefully enjoying an eternal pipe of his favourite tobacco. After the service there was a reception at Girdlers’ Hall but, alas, we had to be in Bristol and so joined the Friday exodus..
Wednesday 10th May 2017
Having now got a taste for High Church services, hot on the heels of St. Paul's I found myself at the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great – last seen by me for the Cutlers' 600th in the dark days of winter. Arriving by bike rather hot and in blazing sunshine, it was a relief to find a pleasantly cool ambient temperature in this lovely building dating from 1123 and not greatly altered since (well, one half was demolished by HRVIII when he turned it into a parish church, but décorwise..). It’s such a special place, I had no problem enjoying a chat with the Master Constructor for half an hour or so before the service began at 5.15pm. The small choir sang handsomely and the priest/precentor wore a monastic brown cowl over his white cassock, whilst at the altar incense was liberally wafted around until the interior was quite opaque – I did wonder had I’d doctored it with a little Virginian tobacco, it might smelt more palatable, but I suppose the Govt. are only happy for us to ingest incense inside.. A fine service with several hymns and prayers by C of E and RC representatives before we ended with a nice bit of Bach to shuffle out to and proceed round the corner to the Great Hall for wine and canapes. In case you’re wondering, View Day has taken place since 1551 and has never been cancelled despite a couple of World Wars. The idea was to allow the Hospital Trustees an opportunity to inspect the facilities and make sure all was in order and now takes place as an extension of its fundraising as Barts is World Class in several areas and has fine cancer treatment labs now installed. The Great Hall is an extraordinary part of the complex – the stairs are adorned with vast murals by none other than William Hogarth, and the main chamber entirely decked out with donor boards going back to the late medieval era – it’s well worth a look, such a shame the fountain courtyard outside is non smoking as it would be very good for a dinner otherwise! We were treated to wine and nibbles before the new Chief Exec gave a short speech, inviting anyone who wish to “view” the new medical suites. It was a very pleasant occasion and our exit at 20.30 came all too soon…
Tuesday 9th May 2017
We arrived (by cab) with a host of others and found ourselves queuing behind the Archbishop of York who was carrying his own baggage for the cloak counter. It was still a fine evening and we got into the Courtyard (now rid of the glass cover that had appeared by the time of our our ladies banquet last Oct) and I found Peter Rawlinson and Archie Smith to drink and smoke with (– Archie had forgotten his cigars but he’s a novice and will learn!) and we enjoyed a very convivial half hour or so before a beadle summoned us to dine. The room was fully laid, it was indeed a large crowd.. Top Table was on the dais opposite the organ and, using the RY V&A yacht's bell we were silenced for grace by Roger Royle. Before he gave it though, Roger explained how he had been a Clergy Orphan and supported by that foundation which has subsequently been absorbed into the Sons & Friends of the Clergy charity, and as such was an Old Boy of my old school, St. Edmund's, Canterbury. With that done we tucked into a fine meal of crayfish terrine; grilled lamb fondant with braised shoulder; and praline parfait with orange and raspberry jelly with tonka bean crème anglaise – it was excellent (MT’s have their own in House caterers) and washed down with good New World wines. The organ then accompanied us for a sung Grace and we then had the usual toasts (bobbing, I’m afraid). After that The Rt Rev David Rossdale proposed us (the Guests) and was responded to by the Rev Richard Coles whom some of you may hear on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme – he was superb, and we enjoyed a highly entertaining 15mins with his account of his early life and career before we toasted the Charity. It was a very fine evening indeed and following such an excellent service it was almost overwhelming – another Master commented to me privately it was one of the best dinners he’d attended in his year, and I can’t gainsay that! Thank you Sons & Friends of the Clergy, may you go from strength to strength!
Tuesday 9th May 2017
This was the 363rd Festival of this clerical charity that supports the families of clergy in straightened circumstances – it has a long record of activity going back to 1655 - the date is no coincidence as it was set up for clergy who, having remained loyal to the King, had lost their livings and become destitute. It was a gown and gong processional affair so I arrived a little earlier and tackled our vault at Stationers' where the Mistress tied on the chain of office etc and we walked over to St. Paul’s in lovely spring sunshine. It’s a service where everyone sits in different locations, so consorts are located somewhere, Clerks somewhere else, Liverymen somewhere else too.. Meeting up with a large body of Masters donning gowning, we were asked to organise ourselves in reverse order and duly processed to our allotted rows which we found by more chance than design in the event! A little later the civic procession came up the aisle, which included the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu and, as as the Lord Mayor was absent in the Channel Islands, we had a ‘Lord Mayor Locum Tenens’ – someone taking his place, I think it might have been Sheriff Peter Estlin but wasn’t sure. This service was supported by two cathedral choirs in addition to the ‘house band’ and so at 5pm, after a fanfare sounded, the combined strengths of St. Paul's, Chichester and Chester Cathedrals (one lot dressed in Puritan collars rather than ruffs) sang the inexpressibly beautiful ‘Crucifixus’ by Antonio Lotti from the back of the cathedral before processing in during the following hymn. During the course of the service each choir had its moment in the spotlight before rejoiingn a trois for a combined finale. Dr. Sentamu gave the sermon and I recall enjoying it, but can’t now recall much more about it except he ended by asking us for more money! The whole thing lasted an hour and a half at the end of which we processed back out - the place was far fuller than I recall it being on the way in. After a short hiatus, I returned my gown to the vault and we got a cab to Merchant Taylors’ Hall for the reception and dinner…
Friday 5th May 2017
Each year our Livery is invited to attend the Gold Medal concert held at the Barbican by competing Guildhall students. About seven of us turned up including the Senior Warden and PM’s Roger Merton and George Lankester. It’s a vocal competition and the evening is the final run off between the remaining four contenders, thus we had a slightly unbalanced quartet of one soprano, two baritones and one bass baritone to impress us. Beginning at 7pm, the first half is lieder and each student is accompanied by their preferred pianist on a Steinway concert grand. The finalists comprised Daniel Shelvey, Bianca Andrew, Samuel Carl and Josep-Ramon Olivé who were being judged by a panel of four including the new Principal Lynne Williams who took over from Prof. Barry Ife late last year. The programmes were quite diverse as one might expect, but inclined to the late romantic repertoire where I guess they reckoned they could be shown off to best advantage – this was fine, but tended towards the earnest. After an interval glass (of water, honest), we returned for the second half by when the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra had assembled under the baton of Dominic Wheeler. This was much more interesting as it needed a different sort of voice to cope with the larger forces, thus a favourite from the lieder section fell away when we just couldn’t hear him! The contestants also seemed more relaxed and introduced little props such as a little book for Leperello's catalogue aria from Don Gionvanni sung by Samuel Carl; Bianca Andrew finished her set off with a dazzling bit of jazz opera by Kurt Weill, singing ‘I’m a Stranger here myself’ with such zest in her bright red dress I had to offer George some medicated snuff! All students were all excellent, however there can be only one winner and, just as we were thinking of leaving the judges to it (it took an hour and a half for them to decide last year!) they returned their verdict and gave the prize to Spanish baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé. True, he did have a lovely voice, but he had also been far savvier with his musical choices – he sang the only baroque aria of the night (Se il mar promette calma by Handel) and finished with a blazing and funny Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, thereby showing mastery over three centuries and, with the smaller, more restrained forces needed, could show his voice off so we could all hear him.. clever lad. With concert done and it being the Mistress's birthday, Ralph and Maureen kindly hosted a jolly little supper back at their Barbican flat which was very kind – and we shamelessly overstayed our welcome as it was such fun.. they finally got rid of us all at about 11.30 I think.. I was quite beat after the night before so slept pretty well!
Thursday 4th May 2017
This was an in joke that took me (and many other Masters) a long time to cotton on to.. apparently May 4th is commonly known as “Star Wars Day” and was why, when I pitched up at 6.15pm, I was met by a couple of Storm Troopers on the door… Coat deposited, I bounded up to the Great Hall via the Info Tech Master, Chris Histead and his Wardens (including the present Lady Mayoress) and joined a vast throng in white and black tie – the Company members all wear sashes of different hues to denote their levels and ranks which, with a Company of several hundred members, is probably a necessity. We enjoyed a lively champagne reception with the musketeers and pike men guarding us against the Imperial Guard (I suppose.. not sure it would be an even match!) before a pair of trumpeters sounded the call for dinner – there were over 700 of us dining and we’d been given A3 sheets to navigate our way so it took a while to A. get there and B. find your place – I was pleased to see PM Fiona Adler and consort David sitting on the Top Table opposite the Lord Mayor who was to grace us with his presence. I must confess that it was a little tight our end of the room, but at least we got to know one another very well by the end of the evening. There was a little moment of comedy when we were asked to sit and, having done so, asked to stand for the Master and Principal Guests, then asked to sit, then stand for grace.. well, it was all good practice! Dining off cured salmon with basil sorbet; rump of lamp (served rare!); cheese cake followed by a blue cheese savoury, we remained standing for the loyal toasts before enjoying a musical interlude – not the Imperial March from Star Wars, but the Post Horn Gallop played with great flare by members of the London Banqueting Ensemble who seemed to be able to hold notes longer than was humanely possible! The Lord Mayor then proposed the toast to the Company and his speech writers (presumably a youthful lot) had gone into Star Wars overdrive with every pun and quip defiantly exploited to the full – it was good fun! Master Chris responded cheerfully and introduced the Guest Speaker, Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency which is presumably like the European one but with more tea. The Future was then proposed by Freeman Mark Harvey – as a modern Livery representing an area now so closely intertwined with all aspects of our daily lives and welfare that few would have foretold even when they were founded 25 years ago, I can only see it going from strength to strength – Lord knows what we’ll be doing with IT in another 25 years.. I’m not entirely sure I want to know but am equally sure we won’t have the choice! On the way out I was very pleased to bump into our “boys” – Liverymen Peter Rawlinson and Archie Smith, masquerading as Masters of their own Liveries, we looked too smart not to grab a snap, even if it was by the cloakroom! As it was the Master Furniture Makers’ last hurrah before his transition to the back benches, we agreed to sneak off for a pint and cigar at the local in King Street.. here, we became the toast of the pub for our get up and more pints were bought us by some likely London Lads – it was a little surreal.. escaping for a night-cap elsewhere, it was 3am before we bade farewell.. It was a grand evening – easily the largest I will have attended in my year and most impressive it was too, thank you Info Techs, and may your sabers ever be lighted..
Wednesday 3rd May 2017
Amongst the many charities supported by the Drapers’ Company are several music colleges with about a dozen students benefitting from their largesse. With so much talent at their disposal and one of the finest halls in the city, it’s no surprise they’ve organised an annual series of concerts for their members and invited guests. The Mistress and myself were delighted to accept Master William Charnley’s kind invite for a concert tonight held in the dining room we know so well, but now arranged with a large horseshoe of chairs around a dais in front of the window. Meeting William for champagne and nibbles in the (splendid) Clerks Office at 6.45, we chatted to several other guests including the principals of some of the Colleges and the rarely-seen Prime Warden Fishmonger Nigel Bankes (despite similar installation dates, this was my first encounter with him!). We went up to the room at 7.15 and were given ‘Royal box’ seats middle front so we had a pretty good view! The concert was of big romantic repertoire – Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ sonata; Ravels ‘Sonatine’ for solo piano and Franck’s Sonata in A major. The first and last pieces were played by Eunsley Park (violin) and Maksim Stsura (piano) with Veniamin Zhukov playing the Ravel in the middle. The ‘Kreutzer’ took up the first half and was played with utter command – there were moments I thought she was trying to saw the violin in half before it caught fire! Maksim the pianist has a very distinctive playing style, crouched with his nose a few inches from the keyboard, he hardly looked at the score and was reminiscent of Glen Gould. The Kreutzer is a huge bit of music and by the end of the 3rd movement Presto we were in need of the interval wine which was enjoyed in their elegant salon located opposite over the courtyard. Suitably fortified we returned for the second half which began with Veniamin Zhukov (I wondered if he was related to Marshal Zhukov but never found out) playing the Ravel from memory and very beautifully. Without a smile he took his bow and was gone in a trice – a thoroughbred Russian! Eunsley and Maksim returned for the Franck, possibly my favourite piece of the evening, the violin again resisting attempts to be hewn in two and Maksim striking such huge and violent chords on the grand piano it shook visibly. When the music and initial applause subsided, they treated us to a charming encore from Tais (Massenet) and then William said a few words, presenting them with bottles for their superb efforts. We then repaired to the Courtroom for a light supper of chicken with Parma ham and a chocolate / raspberry dessert followed by cheese – all delicious. I sat next to the Prime Warden Fishmonger and Katherine, the Draper’s Clerks wife and we had a very jolly time of it. I was surprised when the clock had gone 10.30pm and it was time to wend our way, slightly reluctantly! Thank you William and Drapers all for a lovely evening.
Thursday 27th April 2017
As readers to this blog already know, one of our Liverymen was installed as a Master last December (Peter Rawlinson/Glass Sellers), now it’s the turn of ‘Young Archie Smith’ who stepped up to the gilded plate as Prime Warden of the WC Shipwrights a full week ago, but according to their tradition, was celebrating with his Installation Dinner only tonight. The traffic was diabolical – police had sealed Westminster in reaction to another Islamist threat, and so our cab had to divert to a tube where we found we’d no cards or oysters, only cash - and the machines didn’t take cash.. In the end we were told to tell them the other end, and they in turn didn’t care so let us through! Making it in time for a quick glass, I was pleased to see Archie in his gown and chain for a snap and then we were clapped in to the magnificent Drapers’ dining room. The Shipwrights are a bigger Company than us so had no problems filling the room and used a horseshoe head table which we didn’t. I sat opposite the previous Lady Mayoress (and Camilla, as you might expect, opposite Lord Mountevans, the IP Lord Mayor), the Senior Warden’s wife, Catherine and Liveryman Laura - all proved excellent company and were sportingly interested in my occupation as all Shipwrights should be. We had a terrific meal of smoked fish starter, Drapers’ beef Wellington (as at our dinner) and a lovely fruit pud. The Shipwrights’ maintain their own cellars, so a fine 2005 Medoc accompanied the beef and a delicious Sauternes with the pud, we were very spoiled. Dinner done, the guests were introduced as tradition dictates by the junior Warden, and then after a brief intro, the main guest, Vice Admiral Robin Boissier who’s Chief Exec of the RNLI spoke in a workmanlike manner about the role the service plays, costs and funding etc. Archie rounded it all up and we marched out briskly to a stirrup cup where I was very pleased to meet several other members who were all very interested in what I do – I worked hard to flog them something, so time will tell if that all pays off! It was also good to see Anne and Nicholas Somers (Master/Mistress Turner) who have become good chums over the year, I think Nicholas steps down soon; and also the Master Tin Plate Worker, Tony Steinthal who was installed about the same time as me and yet our paths had not crossed – which for a confirmed smoker was shocking. Needless to say we hit it off handsomely and I hope to attend his Livery Dinner in a week or two. All too soon it was time to go and the Mistress and I said our ‘thank you’s’ and joined assorted others all trying to Uber their way home.. it’s getting tougher it seems, and so it wasn’t until Mansion House we found a bit of clear ground to wait for one and enjoyed a small cigar to pass the time. Thank you Archie and all the Shipwrights for a grand evening and fine start to the new Prime Wardens’ Year. I’m sure he’ll be a credit to us!
Wednesday 26th April 2017
The Air Pilots host lectures twice a year at the Royal Aeronautical Society (off Hyde Park) and so this was my second and therefore last. Arriving in time for a quick cup of tea and a natter with various other Masters, we were asked to take our seats in the surprisingly large lecture theatre towards the back of the building which is a bit of a ‘tardis’ in that the frontage is quite modest compared to the suites of rooms within. Having settled down, the newly-installed Master, Captain Chris Spurrier introduced the guest speaker, Tristan Crawford, the Founder and CEO of Dart Jet. He was about my age and has been turning out competent technical profiles for fighter jets since the age of 12. To distil his 45 minute lecture to a puff of wind is hard, but in essence it was about his ‘light bulb’ moment when he realised that the gulf between trainer jets and fully fledged fighters need not be there and, at the same time, considerable savings could be made with his system. Basically the essential shells of both ‘planes can be the same, only different wings and engine sizes need be added to convert a harmless trainer into a ruthless fighter, but as the controls and components would all be the same, re-training pilots wouldn’t be necessary and vast savings could be achieved with the inter-changeable parts. It sounded plausible, sensible and ingenious.. which is why the RAF have just extended their contract with the old Hawker system they’ve used for 30 years or more. Hopefully when that has run its course the govt will have a rethink and do the right thing. After the talk Tristan took questions for which there were more than time allowed for, and then we returned to the lower salon for wine and nibbles and where I was very pleased to see Peter, the IPM whom I’ve known all year, and meet Tristan for a proper chat and to wish him all the very best for his project. An interesting evening, thank you Air Pilots.
Friday 14th April 2017
Easter heralds a short break in the City routine and I hope a restful break for us all. I have discovered a vein of curious vintage Easter cards with which to wish you all a Happy Easter..
Thursday 6th April 2017
One of the Lord Mayor's stated targets when he address his Masters back in November was to nearly double last years record of £250,000 and get the present ten-year grand total up from £1.6m rounded up to £2m - quite an ambition. Today will have added a goodly chunk to this ambition as, in addition to the ticket price (a "round number"), there was a 40 lot silent auction, donation buckets, charity cocktails (run by our new Liveryman Sean Gavin) and a whole host of other opportunities to be relieved of your cash! Meeting the Senior Warden having cleared tight security, we passed through an HAC honour guard in to a veritable royal mile of Livery Companies selling products they represented - turned wood, leather, books, you get the idea. Having navigated that lot successfully, we were guided into part of the art gallery for the "Royal Reception" - apparently Prince Andrew was due to appear.. the place was already pretty lively, but plenty of wine or water was available and I found spritzing my white was the best thing at this hour. Amongst others I saw the Hon Liz Green, Master Framework Knitter - her last gig as Master as she's "out" tomorrow - bye for now Liz, it's been fun! The meal takes place in the Great Hall and because of the number attending, takes place in three colossal sittings - Ralph and I were on the last at 2pm.. the down side was having to wait, but on the up, we weren't pressued to leave the table either. There was no queue at the curry station we found and once we'd found a bit of clear bench, didn't take long to polish off a mix of tandoori chicken, pilau rice and prawn curry - we'd sat close to a bar as well, so plenty of Cobra washed it down. Pudding was an airline-style rice pudding - cold but tasty, as there was no coffee and it was still a beautiful day, once we'd eaten and drunk our fill, we broke free, running the gauntlet of vendors whose stalls still seemed amply stocked and into a warm afternoon. We never caught a glimpse of the Prince, or even the Lord Mayor, but hope the day was a success - time will soon tell...
Monday 3rd April 2017
Organised by the City Corporation and introduced by the Chief Commoner,Michael Welbank, MBE, this proved to be a very interesting evening. I was unaware of this charter or the fact that it's presently on view downstairs. Arriving just before 6pm, there was time for a quick glass of ginger beer before we were asked to take our seats in this impressive medieval-style great hall. Michael introduced three academics who were going to place the charter in context: Chair: Professor Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History, University of East Anglia; Professor Caroline Barron, Emeritus Professor of History, Royal Holloway University of London; and Dr Nick Holder, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Exeter. Each of them spoke with the authority and depth of knowledge one might expect and between them were able to vividly describe a pre-Conquest London (or Londonburgh as it was known then). In some respect little has changed - Edward the Confessor had embarked on a massive building programme in the 1050's and 1060's and was in the process of constructing three of the largest buildings in Europe - Westminster Abby, the Palace of Westminster, and the City had responded with St. Paul's Cathedral - obviously these are all early incarnations without accurate record, but excavations have shown the sort of ambition of scale they encompassed, with lengths of beween 100 and 300 meters in stone and using Roman tiling for the round Norman arches as of course fragments of Roman Londinium was still much in evidence then. When William was victorious at Hastings in 1066, it seems that amongst his first acts was to preserve the indpendence of his main wealth-creating centre and this extraordinary and tiny little document is that guarantee of 1067. Taking the form of a sort of letter (the scribe made a mistake on the first line and had to scratch out a word - the evidence is still quite visible), it has two slits at the bottom - the larger, upper on had a seal attached to it (you can still see the impression it left), it was then folded into the document and the lower, thinner piece used to bind it up - very neat. Amazingly in the 19th century, a treen box was discovered in a sort out containing fragments of the original wax seal which the British Museum re-set in a wax disc of similar size. Once the talks were over and a few questions taken, there was a reception with wine and bits which was very enjoyable. I met a Guildhall opera course student who was there with his design student flat mate, each sporting his own wooden bow tie made by the design student - I'm not sure if they'll catch, but were interesting all the same. As the room thinned out, the Master Tax Advisor and I went to look for something a bit more substantial around the corner, but not before going downstairs to see the 1067 Charter first hand.
Friday 31st March 2017
The intended organist for this free recital had fallen ill so, gamely stepping up to the plate, Dr. Parmley, our organ-playing Lord Mayor kindly volunteered his services. St. Stephen's is the one church the Mistress and I had been unable to see during the Livery Churches walk last summer, so it was an added attraction to finally see Wren's 'practice' dome for St. Paul's. The Lord Mayor welcomed us all quietly and charmingly as we arrived - in which other capital city would you be able to see and meet one of most important civic leaders without pomp or ceremony? It's what sets us apart I think.With a short intro from the Lady Mayoress, Dr. Parmley gave us about 45 minutes of excellent organ music from Boyce to Howells on what looked a fine instrument still using a ?Grinling Gibbons organ case, the console now remotely operating from just behind our pew, so we had an excellent view and I shamelessly recorded a little which I'll attempt to add as a link.. The finale was the fun Sortie by the extravagantly named French composer Louis-James-Alfred Lefebure-Wely (yes, really) - it was one of those tunes you can't get out of your head and it's still there as I type this on Sunday morning! As an encore Andrew gave us a very individual account of British 'Sea Songs' with inserted variations from other sources such as Widors 'Toccata' amongst several others - very clever and amusing. Needless to say, word had got out and so there was a good turn out to support and it all went down very well indeed. Thank you Lord Mayor for providing an excellent end to a highly enjoyable day. I don't mind admitting both Camilla and myself were fairly pooped by this stage and so said our farewells and went home for a light supper!
Friday 31st March 2017
This is always a fun lunch - most, if not all, Livery Halls host the entire Livery and for the past year or two we have gone to Stationer's as we house our gowns there, and it has that lovely garden if the weather's nice.. There's no formal line up, so we could get stuck straight in with some fizz and regroup. Our party consisted of, in addition to myself and Camilla, Sandra, Ralph and Maureen, IPMs Chris Allen (in tails from doing his stuff as sidesman in St. Pauls for the service) and Mary; PM Mark Gower-Smith; Fran and Sean Gavin, one of our new members. Sadly Roger Brookes had to pull at the last moment for work reasons. We had enough time to use the garden for a half corona so we had a very happy half hour or so before summoned to lunch. Our table was in one of the smaller anterooms this year, so we had to cheer extra loud when invited to be recognised by the Master Stationer in his welcoming speech. With that all done, we settled down to an excellent guinea fowl terrine; cod with chorizo sauce and fig cheesecake with good wines. The Master wound it up informally and we were able to finish our coffee in our own time. We heard from another Company about last-minute concert the Lord Mayor was doing, so happily accepted Ralph and Maureen's invitation to tea in the Barbican a few minutes away.
Friday 31st March 2017
Grateful that perhaps the stirrup cup the previous night had eluded me, we were 'up betimes' to meet the Clerk, Senior Warden and others at Stationers' Hall at 10am to gown up prior to the short walk to St. Paul's via Paternoster Square. This service was inaugurated in 1943 by way of thanks for surviving the Blitz and showing that, despite all, we don't let minor things such as a European War get us down - plus ca change! No procession is needed for this service so we found our pew - ranked in strict order of precedence, so as number 82 we were about 40 rows back from the Great Twelves at the front. Every Master sits on the aisle side of his Livery row so a run of fur and chain flanks the processional route, then the Clerk, and then Wardens in order followed by any Livery members. We had about ten in total. At 11am a fanfare let us know something was happening and a magnificent procession passed down the aisle - each Master of the Great Twelve accompanied by a mace bearer with tricorn hat etc., followed by the clergy led by a choir, and then, finally, the Lord Mayor preceded by the Great Mace and Sword of the City of London. It was a beautiful service with superb choral music and enjoyable rather less usual hymns. The address by the Bishop of Southwark was excellent, with many clever modern references, we all much enjoyed it. The Lord Mayor read a lesson so well that several people commented on his timing and inflection.It all lasted about an hour and at the end the procession (shorter this time as the choir had a faster exit) exited and then we had the "general shambles" that occurs at this point - this is where about 1000 people, most in gowns, try and get out of two small doors to make their lunch appointments! It's the same every year and is as much part of the tradition as the orderly procession itself.. We finally broke free to find a fine morning had developed and the tourists snapping away like crazy. We beat a hasty retreat back to Stationers'....
Thursday 30th March 2017
Getting home from work in good time to wrestle on the white tie kit, we were looking forward to this annual knees up with the LM as he was bound to pull out all the stops for his Masters. We weren't disappointed, but if the Corporation of London grant many more Liveries then they're going to have to extend Mansion House as this was about capacity I reckoned! Because of the way MH works, it's always advisable to arrive on time or a tad earlier - apart from security, there's a narrow staircase to negotiate and 250 Masters and Mistresses can't move very fast! Joining the shuffle north, the stair corners were lined with the City's Musketeers and Pikemen - one of whom was the IPM Playing Card Maker, Charles Fowler looking resplendent in a broad hat and uniform etc. Finally we got to the LM and Lady M for a quick greeting and a quick side step past Sheriff Esslin and then joined a busy throng with a glass of cold champagne. It didn't take long to find friends from the circuit, but getting a refill was tougher! We didn't have long to wait until we were gavelled in for dinner and went to the Egyptian Hall, the massive top table sprouting nine sprigs. Before we dined, the Rev Canon Roger Royle (he of my October Ladies Banquet) read an excellent Grace (Article 50 had just been dispatched to Europe):
O Lord, in this momentous week
the City’s Great and Good are gathered
Your blessing so to seek.
With E.U. letter duly signed
We have come together
So we might dine.
And as we feast on English fare,
O Lord Divine, we pray
That if it be just possible,
And in Your own good time,
It is from France
We get the wine. Amen
We dined on cured salmon, beef fillet and chocolate and pear mousse with an excellent 2005 Margaux taking the gong for wines in my view. While we ate, the Band of the Royal Yeomanry played light music from the balcony, but it was hard to hear them over the hubbub. I sat next to a PM Grocer and opposite the Master Gunmaker, both of whom developed a strong liking for our particular blend of snuff! After the loyal toasts, the LM gave his usual high-standard of speech followed by the Master Mercer and Master Grocer. With that all done the Reverend Canon disptached us with another prayer:
The Feast is over, but Lord
Before we he'd for bed
We thank you for the time
In warm conviviality we’ve spent
Having put to the back of our minds
That it’s still
the season of Lent. Amen
Thus, we dispersed for a stirrup cup - but these were hard to come by, so note to future Masters, don't hang around! We saw several more friends who were on their last legs as Master and it will be sad to see them go, but that's the way Livery works! Ever minded of the exiting policy at MH, we got our coats and went to hunt for a cab home - but not before a quick cigar with the Master Furniture Maker, naturally!
Wednesday 29th March 2017
This annual production is well worth attending. The scenes are no mere lollipops, but properly costumed and propped extracts where the combined talents for students not just of opera, but costumes, lighting, stage direction and of course accompaniment are all used to produce some very high quality vignettes. Frankly I enjoyed these more than some I'd seen in the main opera houses where costumes and sets can be dubious to ludicrous in their ever-bewildering rush to be seen as relevant or alternative! Sometimes it's just nice to see something played straight, but cleverly and that's just what we had this evening. The scenes spanned the full canon from Monteverdi to Britten and were sung with considerable polish by the students, and very ably accompanied by two students alternating on the piano. Our sponsored baritone, Michael Vickers (who sang so nicely at the January Dinner) performed Ramiro from Ravel's L'heure Espagnole and Don Giovanni from the eponymous opera by Mozart - the costumes were so good that I didn't spot him in his first role! An excellent evening which demonstrated that our money is being used for an excellent cause.
Monday 27th March 2017
Another evening with this interesting club, but since my last visit and after a rather laid back wait of about fifteen years, I had been elected to join them as a full member. As readers to the previous entry will recall, there are several traditions which have endured since the club was founded in 1909 and one of them is that each member use his nominated soubriquet when the Pickwick Papers are "in session". As the name is granted not chosen, I was rather pleased to discover that henceforth I will be referred to as Mr Blazes Tuckle! You can rely on Dickens to come up with a good name, even for his more obscure characters, can't you? Apparently in the book he's a "scarlet coated footman", I'd better read up, but it sounds like a role with latitude to me.. Also dining this evening were the Master Fine Art Scholar (Tom Christophersen) and Master Educator (Martin Gaskell) both of whom looked suitably bewildered by the shout of "Vittles" by Heney Beller (Graham Jackman, PM of several companies) to the roared response of "MUFFINS" by the members! The rest followed the same format as recorded previously - unchanging except for the speaker - this time the toast to Charles DIckens was proposed by Dr Jerome Booth and I recall enjoying it, but can't now remember why! I also spotted the now-ex Windsor Herald William Hunt, but the crush was such I was unable to chat to him.
Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Having left Tallow Chandlers with Ralph and Maureen, the Clerk and I had a quick cup of tea with them in the Barbican before going back to St. Paul's Cathedral. We were due to process to Evensong at 4.30 and just scraped into our gowns as the line moved off - my chain being adjusted as we went - phew! Up the left side of the dome we went with the Carmen sat opposite. In case anyone's wondering what the difference between Carmen and Hackney Carrriages, Carmen are far older and are the carters of the City - their members sorted out all sorts of things - from haulage to carting the contents of wastepits etc. - thank goodness for modern sewers! They seem to be thriving still. Although they'd been organised since at least 1276, they won their Livery in 1517, so that's what the service was in aid of. Evensong has long been one of my favourite services and this was no exception, the choir sang beautifully. It took about an hour, after which a slightly weary Master and Clerk processed back to the crypt to disrobe. We needed to store the gowns at Stationers' Hall anyway, and that's were the reception was as well, so it was fate.. We joined a long queue to park our coats, found a key to the vault for the gowns and then went to look for reviver.. we found the Master Carmen in was in full flow to a packed room at the end of which she unveiled a huge quadruple portrait to commemorate the event. I don't think they have a hall, so where it's going to hang is another matter, I'm just glad it's not my problem! Finally we found a friendly waitress and she kept us topped up as we chatted to friends from the circuit. Knowing Ben Burbage was around, I'd kept the few residuals from lunch handy and, after a very pleasant chat with Vivian Bairstow (IPM Cooper) and Chris Histead (Master IT), Ben, myself and Ben's Livery Lodger, Frank (Master Banker) went to the great little courtyard garden this hall enjoys and had a very pleasant half hour. By 8ish, it was time to make a move, but it was slow getting away and I didn't make home until 9.30pm where I learned all about the horrors of Westminster, which marred what was an otherwise very good day indeed.
Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Arriving a tad late for the 09.30 run through thanks to a sluggish District Line, I found all the Wardens, Clerk and Assistant Clerk patiently waiting. We were using the charming 17th Century courtroom of this Livery Hall, built around 1676 and very little altered, it's located on the third floor, so we were all a bit out of puff! All the members sit on benches around the panelled walls with no tables, but it means the Master can see everyone very easily and its intimate size means its very easy to hear everyone too. We used this room for a while when we were reformed in the 1950s and the Clerk had found a great old photo of the then Court - it turned out that PM Derek Harris (who was attending today) not only recognised everyone, but knew their firms' names and that it was the very Court where he was admitted to our Livery - amazing! I asked Ian, our Assistant Clerk to bring his camera and, with the assistance of Christopher Sawyer (IPM Scientific Insts. and soon-to-be one of us) we re-took this historic image which I'll put up as soon as it's available. We served coffee from 10-11am at the back of this room, dominated by a fine Thomas Tompion longcase presented to the TCs in 1738 and working perfectly. We assembled and, at 11am sharp, myself, wardens and Clerks made the micro-procession to our seats. We enjoyed a good meeting with plenty of useful decisions made and galloped through a 24 point agenda in one and a half hours - and that included admitting a new Court Assistant, two Freemen and a new Liveryman (Christopher Sawyer). I'm not sure if it was the bench seating, or semi-bribe of a nice cigar before luncheon that kept things ticking along, but all was convivial and fraternal - just as it should be in our Company. Jemma Freeman had kindly provided me with a box of half corona's and at 12.30pm we repaired to the lovely little semi-covered courtyard to enjoy one (yes, that's the other reason I chose this Hall!). Whilst we were in Court, the Mistress had lead a party of ladies around the Museum of St. John, an amazing place if you can get there - Hogarth's dad ran a coffee room in the gate house! They also arrived at the Hall on time at 12.30 so we were a pretty merry throng both in the reception room and Courtyard. Finally the Beadle came to nudge me upstairs and we took our places at table - no procession - in their lovely dining room: apart from the removal of a musicians gallery, it's unaltered from 1676 and is charming. I read a grace our Chaplain had provided (David was obliged to be away, sadly) and was seated next to their Master, Richard Fleck. We tucked into a nice smoked trout starter, loin of beef and almond tart, with good French vino - it was very good indeed, and served in such a timely manner, we had time for a "comfort break" after the Loyal Toast. After that, I made a short speech, mainly thank you's, but couldn't resist pointing out that Richard was the Tallow Chandler's 450th Master - the Master that will fill those shoes for us won't be born for 340 years! With that all done, IPM Chris Allen responded on behalf of the Mistress. Chris was very kind indeed but reserved his right to sing part of it as the Lord Mayor supports music (in all forms?!), and so he sang a G&S style patter song.. set to the music of "I am the very model of a modern Major General" the text ran:
You are the very model
of a modern livery master.
You can drink a gin and tonic
And there's none who drink it faster
You can knock back cold prosecco
Whilst you're spouting lots of trivia
On the quarterdeck of Wellington
Not falling in the riv...ia!
With your waistcoat buttons popping
'Cos you dine out every other day
At Drapers, Merchant Taylors, Skinners
Even Mansion House, they say.
Your snuff box at the ready
And your smile so broad and pleasing.
You charm your fellow masters
And you always leave them sneezing.
With bonhomie beguiling,
You puff your pipe where ‘ere you be
With the Mistress at your elbow
You acquit yourself so admirably.
With blogs so entertaining
That we read them and we crave for more.
You're the star turn in the City,
Like a character from Pinafore.
Your year will soon be over
Yes, the Clerk will soon abandon you.
Your diary will be empty,
You'll be wondering what you can do.
From the Master and the Mistress
You'll be Charles and dear Camilla
We shall miss you Master Miller”
So there you have it - he then presented me with a framed copy with photographs from some of the other banquets - I was very touched.
Even with a mini operetta inserted into Luncheon, we had time in hand - enough for me to invite those who wished it, another cigar, with a cognac, down the the courtyard. Ralph and I donned our smoking caps and had a very good half hour or so, before we left (the last to leave) at 3.30.. I had to get on to the next event..
Wednesday 15th March 2017
Raising money for the Sherrifs and Recorders Fund since 2014, the Hams of the Old Bailey (including some very senior judicial and clerical ones) come together for three nights once in a while in the famous Court No.1 (scene of Dr. Crippens trial and so many others) for a semi-costumed evening of judicial humour and music - devised by HH Judge Peter Rook QC and performed this time by Colin Sell (of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue) on the keyboard. This was my first time and the format was basically the re-enactment of some of the most amusing/serious/significant cases heard in the Old Bailey. Each was introduced by Sally Smith and seemed to concentrate on the cases heard by Edward Marshall Hall, QC, one of the greatest councils of late Victorian and early 20th Century England. Running concurrently (no interval) for about 1h 45., we were seated in the gallery as the experienced members from earlier years made good their ususal seats! No matter, we had a good view and could certainly see enough when our own Fiona Adler (see photo of her with the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles!) made a surprise entrance as a Madame! It was all good fun and over too soon. At its conclusion, Peter Snow drew a raffle - programmes had unique numbers acting as tickets. As every last seat was filled and was, I imagine, on the other nights, I hope a goodly sum was raised for the fund.
Tuesday 14th March 2017
As soon as this was announced in early January I booked our seats - one of my favourite symphonies with the Lord Mayor as soloist in his 'Parish Church' had to be a must, whatever the deadline at work was going to be like. The tickets were "organised" by Eventbrite and appeared via an app on my 'phone - all very well, but not one member of staff seemed have have a clue what they entitled us to and so, having been referred around the houses, we ended up in the crypt at St. Paul's for the gala reception and were pleased to bump into David Moss and his wife Fiona Adler, both looking significantly more glamourous than my lounge suited options. I also had a quick chat with the LM himself, resplendant in his "work clothes". Mananging to get a glass of fizz, we heard a speech by the Lady Mayoress and then, filing past Nelson and Wellington, ended up in the body of the cathedral above. Contacts are useful things and so we spotted IPM Chris Allen in tails and chain running the sidesmen as they're called and he kindly saw us to the right seats. The orchestra (the London Symphony no less) and choir assembled and then, from the back of the building there was a loud fanfare, responded to by the organ and then in unison.. then a loud drum kept time and, with the audience now on its feet we were treated to the Lord Mayor making his entrance accompanied by a full body guard of the Cities Musketeers and Pikemen in full 17th Century dress, with scarlet stockings and lobster tail helmets, each with a matchlock or 12ft pike - very impressive! The LM took his place by the organ console (they don't need to be attached to the pipes these days, so it sort of faced us left of stage). The first item was Parry's "I was Glad", followed by a stunning rendition of Allegri's "Miserere" - the two choir boy soloists could have cut through glass with their top c's! this was followed by the Coronation Te Deum by Walton. At last we came to the main event - Saint-Saën's third symphony, known as the "organ" symphony, it might just as well have been called the 'piano' as he was experimenting with both instruments throughout, but perhaps the organ is the most dominant... Most of you will have heard some or all of this lovely composition - used extensively by Hollywood, most notably for the "Babe" pig films of 20 years ago, nothing can compare to hearing it live with a real organ in use. Whilst technically two movements, they're structured so that it feels like the traditional four, each a mini masterpiece. The fourth steals the show though, opening as it does with a mighty and extended chord on the organ which the orchestra responds to building up to a huge finale with timpani and cymbals going hell for leather - if you like a rousing finales, this is one for you! With the job done (there was no interval), the LM took a bow and couple of curtain calls and then marched off to dinner at Plaisterer's Hall where those with far deeper pockets than I were following, I'm sure they had a grand time. For our part, we bumped into a number of our Company - but not all I hear - and so with Ralph, Maureen, Camilla, Sandra and Elise Rasmussen, we went to find fodder at Cafe Rouge, but not before we had a snap taken with IPM Chris.. Hearty congratulations to Dr. Parmley for making such a splendid fist of it all - as Eric Morcambe might (not) have said, he "played all the right notes... and in the right order"!
Monday 13th March 2017
Every six months one of the Modern Livery Companies (those founded since the Master Mariners in 1926) organises a dinner for the group. This time it was the turn of the IT Professionals and, although they have a Hall, it would be too small for this, so we found ourselves at Brewers' Hall - another first for me. The Brewers can trace their antecedents back to 1292, but it was Henry VI in 1438 who granted them a charter. The hall is the third, built in 1960, it replaces the 1403 hall lost in the Great Fire, and the Carolinian Hall lost in the Blitz - a familiar story. Arriving by motorbike, I was right on time and was delighted to see a fine display of ales and cooperage as we went to the neo-Georgian salon upstairs. Meeting Chris Histed, Master of the IT Pro's, there were plenty of Masters to catch up with. Ralph attended of course as this is an opportunity for him to meet other prime/senion/upper wardens with whom he'll be Master later this year. I would have been happy with beer, but we had nice chilled prosecco. Gavelled in to dine in the next room, it proved quite an intimate room, but more than adequate for our purposes. Seated next to Flavian (Master Mariner) and Dr. Tony Smart, Senior Warden Furniture Makers' with whom I share an interest in canal boating. We had a very pleasant dinner as one might expect, dining off asparagus, braised beef and cheesecake. We then had a Loving Cup - uniquely this one was filled with ale and, had I been prepared for that, might have taken a deeper draught!. After the Loyal Toasts, Sir Peter Gershon, an IT Pro man and Chair of Tate & Lyle spoke to us, reminiscing about his first computer, which filled a room about the size of the one we were dining in.. All done we had a stirrup cup - including ale at last, and I met Sir Peter - it turned out he'd sold off the sugar aspect of T&L as one of his first acts as Chairman! Flavian then invited Ben (Furniture) and self back to his ship for a nightcap and cigar on deck - perfect. A clement evening it was a great way to round off. Leaving about 12.30, I was mortified to find I had a puncture so didn't make home until 3am! best laid plans..
Thursday 9th March 2017
Amongst other links, we support this Company by way of sponsoring one of their cars for their anual drive to Disneyland in Paris with disabled children - a huge procession of over 100 black cabs each with up to five occupants, escorted by police and with medical services in attendance make a wonderfully impressive procession when it departs at 06.30 from Canary Wharf each year. We also enjoyed hosting their Master, Alan Roughan at our January Dinner this year, so it was very pleasant to be with them and so many other Masters for this Spring Court Dinner. Despite leaving work in a timely manner to change, I seemed to be running late, so as it was a pleasant evening, I motorbiked over to Finsbury Circus, just over the road from the Hall. Meeting the Hon Clerk in the vestibule we made our way to an upstairs salon which was humming. I was very pleased to see several Masters who I'd missed of late, and also our Liveryman Peter Rawlandson in his Glass Sellers role. Gavelled in to the modern wood-lined dining room, the Hon Chaplain, The Revd. Dr. Martin Dudley gave an excellent grace:
O sing a song of Cheapside and of Poultry too
of the bikes and buses making their way through;
O tell a tale of black cabs, and the meter’s rising bill
As they go by way of Barbican to simply reach Cornhill!
O God who led thy people into the promised land
We do not ask for paradise, or anything so grand,
we simply like to cruise around, not to park in a rank,
And as thy children crossed the Jordan, we'd like to get to Bank!
O Lord who heard thy people's cry, O Majesty Divine,
Listen to our plea, we pray, and bless our food and wine.
And so we enjoyed an excellent meal (Cook & Butler) of grilled bream in lime butter; loin of Scotch venison; pear tart and a goat cheese tartlet to finish, very pleasant. The Guest of Honour was Craig Mackey, Deputy Police Commissioner who gave a workmanlike address about how police cars were soon to carry defibrilation units so heart attacks could be dealt with even more quickly (presumably not as a result of their fare!) and then Master Alan presented an Military Award to Dan Tottle as the most outstanding officer. Dinner done, there was a stirrup cup and, managing to smuggle a glass of port downstairs with Ben Burbage (Furniture) for a cigar, we found Peter (Glass Seller) already at it, so we formed up with him.. it seems I lost the Clerk at this point and somehow we passed each other in the crush inside. I left at 10.55 and, because I was on my bike was safely home in Fulham by 11.30 having scraped passed two diversions, three road closures and Lord know what else! Thank you HCD's for a super evening!
Wednesday 8th March 2017
Leaving work in good time to be at the start, I was thwarted by various bay and road closures in the area and, once I'd been swept north of Oxford St it was hopeless, no roads seem to run where you need them and it took near half and hour to get back to Old Compton St! The Whiskey Club is a specialist shop with a nice little terrace on top - very discreet as there's no street signage at all. As I was late our Club was well into its stride with a good turnout enjoying a fine selection of cigars - Assistant Colin Ritchie kindly pressed one of his retirement collection on me and, beer in hand I settled in. In addition to Tony Scanlan and his MC team (Elise, Jemma and Jerry), there were variously about 20-30 or so stallworts and guests and it was as one might expect of our Livery, very convivial - the time passed quickly and with numbers thinning, I went in search of forage with Tim (IPM's son) and mutual pal, Max. Thank you to the Membership Committee for an excellent evening in another novel location!
Tuesday 7th March 2017
Being a Modern Company (No.107), I've seen a fair bit of Master Kevin Thomas on the circuit and queing in processions etc. and he's become a good friend to me and our Company - and attended our January Dinner as a guest. In response he invited me to their "Budget Banquet" - held on the eve of the recent budget as it has every year.. I suppose this was the last one then as the Chancellor will now only do Autumn Budgets. It seems Stationers' Hall is a great favourite with many of our Companies as I've been here a good deal of late - only a week before at the Sherlock Holmes Dinner. Kevin had mentioned to me a few weeks ago that he was thinking of introducing snuff after the loyal toast, but I wasn't sure if it was going ahead hence, having arrived on time at 6.45pm and been announced etc., I retreated glass in hand to find a key to the vaults and retrieve our rams horn mulls which I charged with a fresh medicated blend. Placing them in front of the Masters chair, I then relaxed with a glass of fizz chatting to Middle Warden Marcus Fincham's wife - both tax advisors, he (note the singular!) also runs a rare breeds sheep farm. Gavelled in by the excellent Beadle Henderson, we were soon seated and dined off poached halibt and bream; saddle of lamb; and cinnamon and pear sticky toffee pud with liquorice ice cream (the jury's out on that one!) provided by Mark Groves team. After a loving cup we had the Loyal toasts and then the microphone passed briefly to me as I explained how to take a pinch efficiently and sent the mulls off down the branches - to my surprise and delight they performed a perfectly matched circuit and both ended up with Clerk Paul Herbage towards the end of speeches - something our own Company has yet to achieve... The Principal Guest was Phil de Glanville - the rugar star of the mid 90's who traversed the amateur-professioanl eras. He gave an amusing speech about how the TA's seem to evolve every five years (founded '95, grant of livery '00 etc.) and the relevant scores in the rugby world each time plus a bit of back room banter. That all done, Kevin wound up the evening ending with a good joke: Doctor to a woman given two months to live: Marry a Tax Advisor! / Why? she asks.. / It won't make you live any longer... but it will feel like a life time! Well, I enjoyed it anyway.. Dinner done, we marched back out and, although there was no formal stirrup cup, there was a lot of lingering so I had a natter with Sir David Amiss, MP, Kevins local man from Southend West. Then, cloaked and hatted, I lit a cigar and strolled off to Blackfriars to find a tube home..
Monday 6th March 2017
So called because of the merger in 2005 of two art prize funds (the Lynn Foundation and the WC Painter-Stainers Co.), the Mistress and I took advantage of the locale and drove over to St. James in easy traffic and lots of parking - a nice change! Arriving a little after 6pm, we found the Mall Galleries (next to the ICA) were packed with a huge throng. I immediately bumped into friends from several different walks of life - Daniel Preece, artist/exhibitor, serveral Painter-Stainer liverymen, many Masters (the others were at an interesting sounding lecture in St. Lawrence Jewry) and Past Masters etc., and not least our Senior Warden Ralph and his wife Maureen. This meant that there was hardly any opportunity to get near, or really see the art on the walls, but one did ones best. Around 7pm the Master P-S called order and, together with Daphne Todd OBE, one of the judges from the "Big Painting Challenge" hosted on Channel 5. She spoke about the need for figurative art we can still understand, rather than the conceptual art that our colleges now churn out - this is something I heartily endorse having long suspected modern contemporary art is little more than a vast, self perpetuating, con trick! The four prizes were announced in reverse order and were useful amounts for budding young artists - £1,500; £4,000, £5000 and £15,000. I can't recall the names of the winners now, but put three of the pics up here with this posting, I couldn't get near the fourth, the young artist prize. As the place thinned out and it was past our 8pm "end" time, us Pipe Makers accompanied by Philip Morrish, Master Environmental Cleaner, went round the corner for a light bite at Villandry in Lower Regent St. A pleasant evening, thank you Painter-Stainers'.
Friday 3rd March 2017
We went along to the Silk St theatre at the GSMD to see the 'World Premiere' of this new opera. We were hoping to see our student Michael Vickers (who had sung so nicely at the October banquet) in one of the leads, but found we'd got his pairing (the students often share a role so they can all have a go). The opera was written by GSMD's Prof Julian Philips to a libretto by Stephen Plaice and is based on Chaucer's 'The Merchant's Tale' from his Canterbury Tales collection - to boil 2.5 hours into about ten words: "Old man takes young wife, is cuckolded by his servant and dies". The costumes and sets were Brugelesqe and done to a very high standard, presumably by other students learning their trade; the cast consisted of a large chorus attending twelve soloists but most of it was sung the old man, Januarie, his bride May, and servant/cuckolder Placebo, there was also a non-singing character who wandered around with a wheel barrow containing a massive phallus; and the figure of Death based on the Seven Samurai (I think). The music was very good - I wish I could say I could recall a tune or theme, but I think all modern composers would be offended if you could these days! Had the excellent H.M. Bateman been alive still I'm sure he'd have produced a design entitled along the lines "The Composer who wrote a tune his public could hum" with some poor fellow being laughed and pointed at! At the interval we were invited up to a balcony for a glass of wine/water before returning for the last couple of acts. It ended at 21.45 so not over-long for an opera and it was very enjoyable overall. The Composer joined the cast for a curtain call and then it was all over and we went to find an Uber home..
Wednesday 1st March 2017
Going from a lunch that ended at. 4.45 to a lecture that starts at 6pm is, possibly, rash. Departing the quaint charms of H.Q.S. Wellington, I arrived with Philip Morrish (Master Environmental Cleaner) by tube to Canary Wharf in all it's terrifying modern splendour - not my thing at all. Locating Barclays (?HQ), we ascended to level 30 where the WC Glass Sellers (Master Peter Rawlandson, also a Liveryman of TPM's) met us and we were given a drink to add to the luncheon ones... The room was... huge, so high - it was a very appropriate location for this Livery as it was entirely made of glass. We met several of the other Masters from lunch and carried on much where we left off.. a couple of drinks in we were invited to sit and Peter introduced us to three Barclays employees who were each going to talk/present. The main thrust was how Barclays were involving children in modern technologies and how these should be embraced not afeared, and the various programmes they've developed to help. Phrases like "work experiance pod" were talked over and then shown on a video. It all looked laudable, clever and "relevant", however it also made me (one of the younger Masters) thank God I didn't have to do what modern children appear to do to find jobs, I never felt older or more obsolete but that's the way it goes. As I had a private function in Covent Garden to get to, I didn't stay after the Q&A's but left with clearly much to dwell - and catch up on!
Wednesday 1st March 2017
The Mariner's Master Flavian D'Souza is, as readers to this blog will know, an old chum on the Livery circuit and to our Livery in particular and I was very pleased to be one of the several Masters he invited to what amounts to his Swan Song lunch. He wanted to invite many more, but capacity aboard is strictly 120, and it's hard to extend a ship! Arriving with the Hon Clerk a little late thanks to London's terrible traffic, we had just enough time for a swift glass of bubbles on the quarterdeck with a very loud gathering of mariner and masters. Lunch was announced at 1pm sharp and down, down, down to the depths of the ship we went, the dining room occupying the engine room of course. I was as close to Flavian as it's possible to be without being on Top Table and sat opposite the Master Furniture Maker, Ben Burbidge, another good pal from the circuit. We passed a very convivial lunch during which I also met the Principal Guest, the Lord Mayor.. of Westminster, an engaging chap who spoke about his highlights etc. and noted with a wry smile that he was also the MM's landlord, at least when the tide is high! We dined very well on smoked salmon tart; cannon of lamb and choc mousse, and afterwards Flavian presented several cadet prizes from the MM's charity RN ship. With lunch done, we dispersed to the "Model Deck" for a stirrup cup which was very social as one might expect. I took advantage of the time and place to sneek onto the now empty quarterdeck to enjoy a good Cuban cigar.. moments later Ben hove into view having guessed my intent and joined me.. then his Clerk did likewise before Master Environmental Cleaner Philip Morrish also joined us - quite a party now. Cigars done, we went to the Wardroom and enjoyed one for the road for, the time was creeping on and several of us had to go on to the Glass Sellers Ravenscroft Lecture in Canary Wharf... Thank you for a lovely lunch Flavian, I can see you've had a great year!
Tuesday 28th February 2017
Always a fun part of the Livery calendar, our Company was represented this year by myself, Renter Warden Roger Brookes; Liveryman Martine Petetin; and Elise Rasmussen; managed by the able Clerk Sandra, and cheered on to partial victory by the Mistress; Senior Warden Ralph Edmonson and wife Maureen, and for a time Jerry Merton, our nominated Fourth Warden elect. Ralph also became Photographer in Chief bringing a superb camera to the event and took all of these views with the downside that he's not in any of them of course! Meeting at SLJ's which is very convenient for this event, we were able to change into our aprons, running shoes and chefs hats in peace and add sellotape to the hat which was never going to last the course. The racing was due to begin at 12pm and so, gathered in front of the Guildhall Museum and Art Gallery, the Course Master spoke briefly before introducing the Lord Mayor who was there in full fig and gave an amusing and short address before setting off a starting gun (which nearly floored us all) to announce the formal start. Elise was running in the novelty race - the costumes for which must reflect the Lord Mayor's charities. Needless to say, a lot of mad musicians etc turned up, but Elise trumped the lot of them by arriving as a full organ, complete with pipes, stops and pedals!!! There were some also-ran attempts along a similar theme but nothing could touch her and, when the parade of novelties were called fourth for an inspection it came as no surprise to us when she was announced as the winner! Well done Elise!! I wish the same could be said for the rest of us.. I was up first but came a close second but was relieved to at least finish this year; Roger was pipped by one of the Young Freemen and Martine would have won the most elegantly run race had that been a category, but also lost out, so it was Elise who saved the day - huzzar indeed! Incredibly she didn't come last in her heat either - as her hands couldn't actually touch and she could hardly see, it was very satisfying to see her soundly beat the chap in lane 5. With the racing concluded, we changed back into humans at SLJ's and went to dine in the buffet underneath Guildhall where Mark Grove had provided a tasty and warming lunch. The soup was served in special commemorative mugs and there was plenty of wine to keep us going. As workers, Roger and I split the party and wended our way back to a more hum drum afternoon - the morning had remained fine, clear and sunny, as I rode home it began to rain and the wind picked up, so we were lucky in many ways this morning. Thank you Poulters', it was - as ever - good fun.
Monday 27th February 2017
The Livery Committee of the WC Stationers and Newspaper Makers (founded 1403) decided a few years ago that their February Livery Banquet would change from the usual/traditional format to something a little different.. As the Company represents publishers and printing, they use each year as an opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of a famous author and theme the dinnner around that. They've already done Shakespeare and Pepys amongst others, and this year it was the turn of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most enduring creation Sherlock Holmes. Guests are encouraged to make a gesture towards the theme in their attire, so a nod to the 19th Century or a full-blown costume was equally placed. The Mistress and I erred on the side of caution, Camilla had an ostrich fan, and I used pipe cufflinks and a fob watch with a long chain. Arriving in time for the champagne reception, I took advantage of the lovely courtyard garden for a quick cigar and then joined what was by then a very merry throng. I immediately bumped into "Professor Moriarty" and "The Red Headed League", and then to my delight, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" hove into sight! We were soon gavelled into the dining room which had named and themed tables laid with all sorts of accessories - poison, a 7% cocaine solution, a magnifying glass etc. etc. The menus alone were a work of art and we dined handsomely off "Mrs Hudson's Smoked Haddock; Hurlstone Manor Ballitine of Guinea Fowl; and Sussex Beekeeper's Honey Delight", all washed down with excellent clarets and sauternes. Between each course, the lights dimmed and a spot light to the corner illuminated the imposing presence of Robert Lloyd Parry, a larger than life character, who narrated pertinent excerpts from The Dying Detective with great flair. His performance was enhanced by Matt Redman on the piano who added suitable Victorian atmosphere at key moments - it was really quite gripping. After dessert, Patricia Hammond, a fine lyric soprano, entertained us with a couple of favourite parlour songs, before a game of "Heads and Tails" - a knock out game based on your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes - despite being members of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London, the Mistress was out first go and I the second!! The lucky winners received magnums for their skills. We then unfurled song sheets on the table and joined Patricia for several rousing music hall favourites.. despite having the fag-end of cold I joined in lustily! Then Master Ian Bennett wound up the proceedings and invited us to a stirrup cup. The game had certainly been afoot and we both had a really wonderful evening - thank you Stationers' All, it was great fun.
Thursday 23rd February 2017
This annual lecture has been organised by the World Traders since 1988 and is some undertaking. They are able to pretty much fill the entire Guildhall - around 600 I suppose, and the event was filmed and recorded for transmission via their www site later. The speaker, Sir Simon Fraser, CGMG spoke about the Britain's prospects under the title The World is Our Oyster? Britain's Future Trade Relationships - basically how it's going to work post-Brexit... It was very interesting, if slightly nerve wracking.. as far as I could read it, the summary was "last one turn out the lights"! We've along way to go yet, and there are so many variables in the offing, he had to concede that it was almost impossible to play soothsayer, except that it was going to be even more complex than even he had anticipated! After questions had been done, we needed a drink and thankfully the World Traders had laid on a good bar and canapes upstairs. It was the evening of Storm Doris so several Masters were late, however it wasn't long before we found each other and had a very good time discussing the grim apocalypse that faced us.. yes the tubes were likely to strike again and Southern Rail still can't encourage their workers to work! It had been a long day and by 8.30pm I was all in and went off to find my motorbike for a breezy trip home. Thanks to Master Robert Woodthorpe Brown, his team and Livery for a most interesting evening.
Wednesday 22nd February 2017
By the kind invitation of John Hudson, Liveryman of this Company, Art Scholar and Warrior with the HAC, I was very pleased to attend this Livery Dinner in their lovely Hall. As usual, it's a post-fire rebuild, but a very fine and very original one. They're just sorting out a nasty batch of dry rot which was spotted in an inspection last year, but you wouldn't know it once inside. The display of instruments and treasures are as interesting as ever, and I recall a particularly dandified portrait of James II - whom we as Tobacco Pipe Makers have to be grateful for as he granted our first Charter in 1619 - but only because he wanted the cash! He raised tobacco tax by a cool 4000% and then issued his infamous "A Counterblaste to Tobacco", one of the earliest anti-smoking tracts, so we have rather mixed feelings about him.. I think the rest of the Country did too though! There are also a couple of large framed pennants which were used on the Companies barge at Nelson's Funeral in the dining hall (see top left in the image). The Company is heavily populated with doctors and surgeons as one might expect, but all were very social and I met some very engaging people. My host, John, a valuer from Christie's days had also invited Tom Christopherson, Master Fine Art Scholar, always good fun, and it was too soon before John's antique watch (c.1760) told us it was time for dinner. Once graced and seated, we were served gin cured trout; rack of lamb; almond tart with a particularly good St. Emilion 2000 and others - very hard to decline a refill of that! We then had port and madeira and a loving cup. We didn't 'bob' for the toasts (hooray) and then the Master, Derek Adams, welcomed us followed by guest intros from the Junior Warden. The Principal Guest was Prof. Christopher Whitty who gave us a few minutes of fun before it was time to retreat to the Stirrup Cup - more of the St. Emilion for me I'm afraid. As this is their own Hall, no one was pushing for us to leave and it was with some surprise I noted the time was pressing 11pm before I said my thanks and farewells.
Saturday 18th February 2017
If anyone reading this wonders why we shoot for the 'Sirrah' Cup each year, then one only has to look to the list of Past Masters and note that it was company founder Stanley Harris (father of PM Derek) who presented the trophy to shoot for, and then spell his name backwards! Derek informs me that originally SIRRAH was registered as a pipe brand in 1914 (as Sirrah Gold Spot Pipes, price 5/-). For many years we fought it out at the old barracks in Battersea but with everything in flux now, that is now longer possible and so it is with great thanks to Major Bob Brown of the London Regiment D Company that we now meet in even more exotic locations than Battersea and the last two matches have taken place in or near Aldershot, a good hour's drive from Town and why it's less convenient for members to view the proceedings - although the invitation still stands to all Liverymen. This year we were asked to present ourselves at Mons Barracks, Aldershot by 09.30 where, having cleared security, Major Brown met the team: Me, Colin Ritchie, Paul Taberer, Adam Bennett, Archie Smith, John Gossage, along with Ellis, the son of the Irish Guards WO in control of the shoot, Alan Beggs, and Clerk Sandra as cheerleader. Whilst waiting in the briefing room, a sort of jerry can containing something the army call "coffee" arrived. It was certainly a unique blend, but I don't think it was of coffee beans.. We were then briefed on the day by, I think, by a Warrant Officer and a Colour Sergeant - ranks, like the coffee, seemed rather opaque to me. We discovered we were in for a real treat: a day on the proper army training simulator using the present service rifle which has been cleverly adapted with gas and lasers so one can shoot (without ear defenders) against a range of targets on large screens. The guns went "bang" and had some recoil. We were also made to observe the correct loading drills with the magazines etc. It's a very clever and expensive bit of kit - the computer can simulate a whole range of scenarios from targets at assorted distances to combat situations where you "kill" the enemy. It also decides how many rounds your gun will be allowed and when you're "empty" you have to change magazines etc. whilst shouting "magazine" and "I'm in" etc. There was also a "game" where a message was given to the far right shooter and it had to be relayed between guns during a combat situation and be repeated by the last gun on the left.. apart from the instruction changing from "right" to "left" halfway down, it was correct.. The morning was spent in practice for us to acclimatise ourselves. By about 12.30 it was time for lunch and Bob had decided we were to be treated to the full experience. Thus it was a truck arrived with jerry cans of some 'range stew', loaves of bread, doughnuts and apples and we tucked into a typical field meal and very tasty it all was too - the army eats well these days it seems.. That all done, we then went back to the briefing room where we were introduced to the regimental team up against us. We were to shoot five different targets, alternating teams... all the targets were live action video types and were huge fun - it took some time to really see what was going on as there was "incoming" fire to cope with, plenty of flashes and explosions and advancing enemy troops or terrorists to flush out of derelict townscapes etc. When this was all done, we were were told to take the air (it had become a very fine day outside) and a glass of juice. During this, Major Brown spoke to the assembled company and I responded with warm thanks for a truly splendid and fun day and had great pleasure in presenting him with a cheque to be spent on his men, together with a box of The Master's Snuff to be shared as needed.. Then the scores... these were complicated as the ratio of hits to rounds used had to be computed. It seems we won the 1st and 3rd rounds, the London's the 2nd and 4th, so it all hinged on the 5th round, and in that they had achieved a 10% better hit rate by using less ammunition, they retained the trophy for the 3rd year in a row! We then repaired back to the training room where we were given a bit of fun - two Glock hand pistols, similarly rigged with sound and ammo etc. were given to us to try our luck in one of the wooded scenarios - only front and back sights and use of both hands.. It was very good fun and even Sandra was given a go which she gamely took up with her bad arm encased in a splint. With the formal proceedings over, the regiment changed into civvies and we popped down the road to buy the Victors a pint in the local - as it was so nice, several of us smoked outside. By 4.45 it was time to go and I said my farewells..Next year we look forward to Ralph joining us as left-handers have no case ejectors to worry about! Take note Ralph and see you there... Thanks to the London Regiment for a great day.
Tuesday 7th February 2017
According to our Clerk, we used Pewterers' Hall for a Court Luncheon a few years ago - I must confess I had no recollection of it and, apart from a drinks reception there a few months ago, I hadn't attended a formal event here before, so I was very pleased to receive their kind invitation to do so. The Pewterers are a Company of considerable antiquity which can refer back to 1348, but whose earliest surviving charter is from 1474 - and whose first Hall was from 1478. Predictably the Great Fire burned it to the ground but, more tragically, all of the Plate Books (metal-paged books stamped with date and maker marks) were melted as well, making any pre-Great Fire pewter very hard to identify with any certainty (we are very fortunate that the plate books of the Gold and Silver Smiths survived otherwise we'd be in the same position there too!) The present hall dates from 1960 and, meeting the Clerk at 18.45 in the lobby, we pressed on to the upstairs salon where a good crowd had already assembled. I have to confess I am "with cold" at present and so kept a discreet distance from the main body, but enjoyed some good company with a shipping executive before the Beadle gavelled us to dine. The dining room is downstairs and quite cosy but very comfortable. Some lovely examples of ancient and modern pewter are encased each end, as is a finely embroidered Coat of Arms of 1662. Seated on top table next to the Mistress, Bindy Kent, and the Principal Guest, Michael McLintock, both proved to be excellent company and Bindy had done a lot of background reading on me as she quizzed me closely about matters marine and antique... it turned out that the Master, Roderick, shares my love of the 18th Century and is a compulsive enough collector to merit a subscription to the Antiques Trade Gazette in which he occasionally sees me (all for honourable reasons!) They both proved to be enthusiastic takers of snuff when I proffered my box and were able to tell me all about that as well! We enjoyed a fine dinner of poached salmon roulade; whisky scented beef fillet and poached pear with apple mousse, along with a savoury of Clonakilty black pudding, all washing down with good Chablis, an excellent Chasse-Spleen 2005 and Sauternes and port. We didn't "bob" for the Loyal Toasts etc. and went into a Loving Cup (which I merely mimed for cold reasons). Master Roderick then read a poem introducing the main guests and their companies' contribution to the evening (we lit the candles!) andni the Domican Republic's Ambassador and Lady. Michael McLintock then gave an excellent speech. He is now with Grosvenor Estates and had clearly enjoyed a highly successful career in the City before that. Roderick wound up the dinner by mentioning an extraordinary trove of Tudor pewter that had been recovered in mint state from a wreck off the Domincan Republic about ten years ago, but which was sold two years ago. His talents as a collector came into play as the Company acquired the best of it and it is now housed in splendour in the vestibule - a quite remarkable collection, as shiny and crisp as the day they were made around 1540 and all beautifully stamped with the London marks for Sir Thomas Curtis - a Pewterer whose loyalty to the Company ended him up in jail. Twice. It seems that back then, in order to progress to the Court of Aldermen, you had to be a member of the Great Twelve and the Pewterers' were considered too minor. Eventually he caved in and ended up Lord Mayor once he'd finally transferred to the Fishmongers - what a shame the minute books for those Court Meetings ended up in ashes!! Following dinner, we enjoyed a stirrup cup and a close look at this remarkable group. By 10.45 my pills had long since worn off and I made my excuses with the Clerk and bid our Pewtering friends a very good night.
Thursday 26th January 2017
As has been mentioned in earlier postings, our Company supports the London Regiment financially, and we also compete for the Sirrah Trophy on a (more-or-less) annual basis. They organise a rather nice "do" for all their civic supporters around this time each year and this time it was in the lovely Cutlers' Hall, just by the Old Bailey and near St. Paul's Cathedral. It's a very lucky (and rare) survivor of the terrible blitz of December 29th 1940 when just about the only two structures left standing were St. Paul's and this hall. About five months later another blast took destroyed a wall, but left the building intact, and so this, the fifth-incarnation of 1888, remains complete with its lovely interior - and enough elephant ivory to make Prince William turn green! Having ridden over I was like a block of ice when I arrived a little after 6pm, and was thrilled to find a roaring fire in a beautiful drawing room to warm my hands for a minute. Once upstairs I quickly found Major Bob Brown, our main point of contact and Sirrah Trophy nemesis. Then the out-going Colonel Tim made a short speech in which he explained all the various mergers the regiment was about to undergo (yes, more cuts I think..) and presented a couple of regimental keep sakes to out-going officers. Moving around the room I found there were quite a few from the MoD present and they all seemed vert convivial. Finally I met Major General Ben Bathurst who was very interesting company, and a chap called Ash who ran a media or film company, I think! Before too long it was time to face the chill of the night again and recover my machine, handily parked around the corner at Stationers'.
Tuesday 24th January 2017
With Christmas feasting and New Year but a distant memory, before we knew ourselves it was time for our next Big Do. This year I'd selected Drapers' Hall for this Court and Dinner and, as regulars to this Blog will know, it's an impressive venue and one of my favourites -- not least for its sheer splendour, but because it has the lovely garden for those activities now frowned on by so many.. However, before the dinner we had a Court Meeting in our dinner dress and at which the Company's affairs were put in order. I'm pleased to say we admitted two new Freemen to our Company, and also a new Liveryman in Sean Gavin. With Court concluded by 6.15, we had a short hiatus before our dining members and guests arrived and it didn't take long before the elegant salons were humming to the throng of animated conversations. At this dinner it's just the Master and Senior Warden who greet the guests and, luckily the drinks tray was close to hand.. All our invited Masters know this can be one of the most convivial parts of the evening and all arrived in good time and got stuck in. At 7.15 the Beadle called order and through they all went to the dining room - I thought the room was greatly enhanced with our Livery Crest behind my chair, but the whole ensemble was lovely. The company officers processed in with the principal guests to Handel's march from Scipio, played by our Guildhall scholars of which more later. We were very pleased to welcome the Master Draper, William Charnley to this dinner, but having suffered a painful accident to his leg, he met us already seated. Our Chaplain, the Rev Canon David Parrott read Grace:
Put away your tired court papers
It’s time for dinner now at Drapers'
The Master calls us all to dine
Give thanks to God for food and wine
And, as your Chaplain, may I say
That top of things for which I pray
Is that the speech may be a killer
Lord, loose the tongue of Master Miller
And so we dined. Like Merchant Taylors', the Drapers' have "in house" catering and they're really very good indeed. A delicious warm fish and shrimp starter was followed by the House specialty, Drapers' Beef Wellington, and then warm strudel wrap with house-made pistachio ice cream. William sits on the Hall's wine committee which was evident from the quality of wines consumed - and which were much commented on. Dinner done, we had the usual sung Grace and toasts and then the Smoking Cap ceremony where I don said cap and take a pinch of snuff from a ram's horn mull and send it down the branches - always fun. Shortly after this we had a ten minute comfort break and half the room decanted into the garden for a puff! On our return, the Principal Guest was ably introduced by Assistant Paul Taberer. Martyn Downer (said guest) an antiques chum of mine spoke most interestingly on the relationship between Admiral Lord Nelson (also a Draper) and tobacco and snuff - it was gripping stuff. Drapers' Hall has one of the two full-length studio portraits of Nelson by Beechey.. I kept my response as short as possible as there are better things to be doing, but had to point out that Her Majesty the Queen is also a Draper - and chose to use the hall for her personal 90th birthday celebrations; and that I'd at last identified a cigar that could be legally consumed within the building - a bit of a ruse as I'd had a chocolate cigar (complete with Livery crest) placed above each place setting! Ah well, we can but dream... I finished with an additional toast to 'absent friends' as we seem to have had a run of unusually bad luck on that score of late. Next, our Guildhall Scholars gave a short concert - Micheal Vickers (Baritone) and Diana Sheach (French Horn) were accompanied by their colleage Erika Gundesen on the piano and proved to all they had chosen the right vocation. At my request Michael sang J. C. Bach's rarely heard (and not recorded) song to tobacco; Diana played beautiful peices by Strauss and Mozart and to finish off, Haydn's Sailor Song which Diana had transposed to include horn to great effect - they were terrific. With the formalities of the evening now well and truly ticked, we had about 40 minutes to enjoy a good stirrup cup.. I had ensured we had a supply of good brandy in addition to the wine and port etc, and a box of cigars very kindly donated by Hunter & Frankau was put in the garden and enthusiastically partaken of. We were fortunate in having a clear and not too chill evening and I believe more of us were outside than in.. true to form, I was the last to leave and was relieved to find a cab close to hand for the Mistress and me to collapse into! As IPM Chris Allen put it, it's a gentle canter down hill from now..
Tuesday 10th January 2017
The first event of the New Year was a dinner for Masters and Clerks. Kindly hosted by the WC Plaisterers', this was one of the first events since the Hall reopened following a near year of torment that began with a burst watermain last Easter... Once again, the discreet entrance (which I'd last espied on the Halls Walk whilst the Hall was still in bandages) belied what was behind - one of the largest dining rooms boasted in the City and equalling Mansion House for capacity - 300 can dine comfortably dine in neo-Georgian splendour here. Originally built in the mid 70's, it boasts fine ornamental plaster work, as one might expect. The Hon Clerk found me just as I was about to go in and join the throng. All thoughts of a "dry January" evapourated when offered a choice of elderflower water or good champagne - well what would you do? Having had a month off, it was very good to re-connect with so many old friends and try to catch up before someone else steps in. Called to order, we shuffled to our alloted seats - this serves as a Court Dinner as well and so all the Past Masters wore light blue gowns in addition to the wardens and Master. There were 55 visiting Masters with their Clerks, so the Plaisterer's must have numbered around 200 - impressive. The Hall is actually run by the House caterer and, because this is the owner's night, they pulled out all the stops and served up a splendid table - sea trout terrine; roast pheasant with raised game pie; gateaux opera cake and a fragrent cheese platter, all washed down with excellent wines as appropriate, and a brandy 'chaser' with the coffee too! I was delighted to see they have a fine collection of rams head mulls and, whilst they aren't formally "introduced" they contained fresh snuff and as soon as we'd drunk the Loyal Toast, I made sure ours was sent on its way - although my immediate neighbours enjoyed something rather more superior from my own Private Supply.. I was sat opposite Renter Warden Tim Cooke who'd just collected an OBE for chairing the successful Waterloo 200 celebrations. We then drank a Loving Cup (in this Company the spare person looks at the back of the imbiber) then speeches.. With the speeches concluded (their Clerk traditionally speaks at this meal and did them proud), we enjoyed some entertainment by Gergely Bandi, a Guildhall student, who gave a lovely rendition on the classical guitar - I was later told by the Master that he played 'Lob der Tranen' (Schubert, arranged by Johann Kasper Mertz); followed by a Hungarian Fantasy by Mertz; That done, the Master bid us good journeys home but to partake of a sharpner before we dispersed, thus we went off to find a stirrup cup. As they own the hall there was none of the stress of being booted out and, having stumbled across the Master Mariner and Furniture Maker, it was quite a surprise when I noted it was knocking on for 11.30 and time to bid Master Terence Wright a very good night.
Thursday 15th December 2016
Having now done my final Livery function of 2016, I can sign off for this half of the year and wish all and sundry a very Merry Christmas - and Happy New Year.
Wednesday 14th December 2016
Established in 1885 by the eponymous college in Cambridge, this Mission Church is still going strong and provides musical training and community support in one of London's hardest-pressed suburbs. Some 55 local children now attend Wednesday night symphonic-based practice and the benefits were self-evident in the two short performances the children gave us - one musical and one theatrical. Genial vicar David Evans presided and introduced key personnel from the centre, and also the Master of Pembroke College Cambridge, Lord Chris Smith (the ex-New Labour Culture Secretary). Our Livery, having supported the charity for a number of years, was very pleased when PM Fiona Adler was invited to sit on the Board of Trustees and she now works hard on their behalf. Arriving a little later than planned - the back streets are a little complicated and I was on a motorbike - I just had time to meet our Senior and Renter Wardens, Fiona of course and new Liverymay Dr Hamed Al Suwaidi who had brought a friend along, and some of his own pipes to smoke outside - definitely one of us! After the two performances and speeches, the evening ended with a novelty; on the days the centre isn't being used for children, it's hired to other community based users, one of these was a Zulu percussion duet and dancer who I think was dressed as a bird - it was very jolly, very loud and very well received. I had another event in Covent Garden to get to so made my excuses shortly after the 8.30 exit time.
Tuesday 13th December 2016
My last formal dining engagement of 2016 was at the behest of our Liveryman Peter Rawlinson who was being installed as Master of this fine Company and who had done me the honour of asking me to attend as Principal Guest. The Mistress and I arrived at 6.45, immediately after the Installation ceremony and joined a lively reception in the Court Room. Nearly everyone I met seemed to be a Past Master - that included many of the ladies - and many were married to each other, so it seems this is a company that takes patrimony and matrimony pretty seriously - one PM had actually married two other PM's of the Company! Glass Seller guests don't process in, only the Master, Mistress and Chaplain, so we clapped them in before the Chaplain sung a grace and we got stuck in to potted port, guinea fowl and tarte tatin, washed down with a nice French Medoc. The guest intro's ended with me and I found I was more interesting that I'd thought hitherto - never trust advertising! I kept it short, but dwelt on the curious numbering precedence we have in relation to the Glass Sellers - despite being founded in 1619, according to the College of Arms, our 'old' precedence was No.81 (we're now 82), although the Glass Sellers, founded 1664, are No.72 - answers on a post-card please.. As we also keep our Treasures in this Hall, I'd nabbed our rams horn snuff mulls and charged them with a fresh blend which I then introduced and demonstrated before sending them down the branches - to some great sound effects! Wrapping it up, Peter invited us to the Stirrup Cup, and he and I promptly used the lovely garden for a quick smoke. On departure, I was accosted by several members keen to know where they could get more snuff - or perhaps join our Company.. how wise! I bade farewell to William, the IPM whom I've queued with at the various functions, he seemed to be taking his reduced role quite well.. Thank you Peter - and good luck for your year - watch the bread rolls, obey the Clerk and you'll be fine!
Monday 12th December 2016
At the invitation of Liveryman Jemma Freeman, who is also MD of cigar importers Hunter & Frankau, I attended this rather exclusive cigar night in Boisdale's Canary Wharf rooms. Presented on arrival with a bag containing three cigars, a cutter and lighter, we smoked the first with a glass of champagne on the large and accommodating smoking balcony. The event was sponsored by Snow Queen vodka cocktails of which were flowing liberally too. Meeting up with Elise Rasmussen and Jemma, I was very pleased to also see our late Assistant Nic Wing's widow Sally and son come along to receive a prize in his name. Up to dinner, Jemma was presided over a large table of guests which included all the aforementioned, along with Her Excellency the Cuban Ambassador and her husband. A good meal was served with the famous Boisdale beef for the main, and ended with good cheeseboards. We then had a short boogie-woogie from a Swiss lass who, now we were running an hour late, only had time for one, but she was superb. Tom Parker-Bowles presided and introduced "someone a bit special" to take a single lot charity auction - Nancy Dell'Olio no less. It soon transpired Nancy hadn't taken an auction before, or possibly attended one, so there was a humorous interlude when we seemed to have three auctioneers trying to sell a box cigars and other extras - I never found out if they sold as I heard no gavel or announcement! Then several awards were given, including "Cigar Writer of the Year" which was won by Nic Wing - Sally made a touching speech in his absence. Nearly all the other awards seemed to be won by people on our table until the Cigar Smoker of the Year was announced. For some reason the runner up - Charlie Sheen - was given the mic and gave us a 15 min ad lib of mixed variety before, finally, the Cigar Smoker of the Year was announced and was one Kelsey Grammer (Frasier to most of us) and who had been kind enough to visit our little table of fans just after dessert (I don't think Elise gave him a choice, but he was very good about it!). With that done it was now 11.30pm and we were invited to repair for a cigar and nightcap on the terrace - much as I would have loved to, I'm afraid I sauntered off to find a bed.. Thank you Jemma, it was all great fun!
Saturday 10th December 2016
This very special carol service is held by the Riding for the Disabled charity at Barrow Farm in Essex and our invite is courtesty of its Chairman, our Past Master, John Adler who lives but a few miles away. For reasons unexplained it's alway colder inside than out at this place and tonight was no exception - arriving in steady rain, it was still quite warm outside, but when one settled down within, one was glad of a scarf! Most of the local luminaries support this event and so I was pleased to meet Bishop Stephen of Chelmsford, the Lord Mayor of Chelmsford and the Lord Lieutenant beforehand. We started at 7pm and the traditional story of Mary and Joseph was told on decorated horses who were the model of patience, narrated by the children and sung by a choir and of course us. We were told not to clap (in cased it startled the animals) so waved our hands from side to side to show appreciation. At the end Bishop Stephen held a prayer, and then John Adler made a short speech during which he received a donation from a young local girl who had been moved to make it her charity after visiting last year. After this, we repaired back to John's house where Hilary had prepared a delicious and warming repast and I was allowed to see John's terrific pipe collection - all perfect as I could see. Thank you John and Hilary, and to Fiona who led the way through the back streets of Chelmsford in driving rain!
Tuesday 6th December 2016
This year's service followed the well-known format of previous years, but with one or two tweaks. Past Master Mark Gower-Smith had kindly organised the service sheet and musical liaison with the ever-excellent Sevenoaks School (whose choir sang beautifully under the direction of Christopher Dyer). The lessons were read from the poetic King James bible and our Chaplain gave his usual fine address on the subject of symbolism - using his new altar frontal and sporting one of our smoking caps for reference - I wish I'd been allowed to take a snap! I'd requested everyone remain seated after we'd processed out so I could properly thank the choir, organist Catherine Ennis, several of our charities for attending, Mark and the Clerks for sorting it all out etc. Apart from being necessary and having everyone's attention, it gave the wardens time to sort out the mulled wine and mince pies - in proper Feudal fashion, myself and the Wardens waited on our friends and guests - and in case you think it was lip-service, we washed, dried up and put away as well! It all seemed to pass off very nicely, and I was only sorry that yet another strike by the Southern Rail union had prevented some of our regulars from attending.
Monday 5th December 2016
The IPM Maker of Playing Cards, Charles Fowler, invited the Mistress and self to their huge Installation Banquet, a capacity event held in the main 'Egyptian' dining room - 303 diners in total, and including the Lord Mayor and his Sherrifs, and as if that wasn't enough, I found our very own David Parrott was almost my neighbour on top table - let anyone in it seems - at least he was able to bring his wife Sue, so there was an up side! The Master, Richard Wells had, like all his predecessors, commissioned a bespoke brace packs of playing cards - this years was with a Great Fire theme, and presented them to every guest - I was delighted. The theme extended to the floral arrangements which were orange and black flowers with singed playing cards scattered throughout! At the speeches the Senior Warden spoke in the course of which they'd assembled a small choir to serenade the Lord Mayor.. in his response, the Lord Mayor and his Sheriffs (calling themselves the "Brexit Boys") responded in kind - it's going to be a musical year whether you like it or not - fortunately we all loved it! In fact the drinks and dinner were accompanied by the very competent Military Orchestra - who performed the famous Post Horn Gallop from the balconies to a great roar of approval. As the speeches ran over a little, the pressure was on to make a swift exit as Mansion House fine companies a cool £1000 for every 15 minutes they remain past 11pm, Nice work if you can get it! Thank you Charles and Richard for a lovely evening.
Monday 5th December 2016
Once again I was floored by another stunning place I'd never seen before. This time it was at St. Bartholomew's the Great near the eponymous hospital. The Cutlers were commemorating the 600th anniversary of their first charter, the only one issued by Henry V! The church is a rare survivor - 300 years older than the aforementioned charter, it survived the reformation, the Great Fire and the Blitz! The Norman interior is intact and it was an honour to be allocated a pair of seats. Sadly the Clerk couldn't make it, but the Mistress, who was planning to wait in a tea shop, could (we were on to dinner afterwards so all togged up in white tie..). The service was very, very special - a recreation of a mass that would have been recognised by the first Master in 1416.. a long choral and clergy procession lead by some of the most viscous insense wafted from a burner I can recall, a fine choir and a reading of part of the original charter, initially in Latin, read by the Master. As far as I could tell, most of the Livery were in attendance and were suitably impressed - it was very special. Afterwards a reception had been organised in the Old Bailey with entrance via the rarely used Great Doors off the street - we had to pop in for one (or two) glasses, but couldn't stay long as we were due at Mansion House shortly thereafter...
Monday 28th November 2016
This was not an Official Livery event, but I found so many people either from or connected to Liveries various, I thought I may as well mention it. I was seated with Tom Ackland (PM Mason 2001-2); Graham Jackman (PM Poulter 2013-14; PM Butcher 1999-2000; Liveryman Farmer and Art Scholar) and 'Mr Prothsee' (my hosts nom de plume) This is a men only dining club that meets in the famous and historic George & Vulture chop house once used by Dickens. The ladies have a rather more magnificent banquet once a year in a livery hall. Each member is allocated, and referred to, by a character from the Pickwick Papers and, at the cry of "muffins" everyone tucks into smoked salmon, steak and kidney pie, fruit salad and roundels of stilton, all washed down with copious bottles of wine and port. The menu never varies and the speaker is always fun. All guests, such as me, are introduced and city links and other eccentricities revealed. It's great fun as all the members are highly individual and if you are offered a chance to go as a guest (gents!), I'd advise you accept!
Tuesday 29th November 2016
Arriving a little late on account of the Big Curry Lunch launch, Sandra and I soon made up for lost time and found the 40 or so members and guests were having a grand time of it. Lighting up a large cigar - the name of which now escapes me - and donning my smoking hat, I very pleased to meet several new Livery guests from other Companies and hope they'll becoming firm attendees as time goes on. This was the third Smoking Club the newly reformed Membership Committee under the direction of Tony Scanlon had organised and it was great fun - good cigars, wine, eats and company - there's not much to go wrong really. My thanks to Tony and his team, and also to Dunhills for kindly hosting it. I hope to see more members attend the March meeting which is reputed to be in Foxes next door.
Tuesday 29th November 2016
Running for ten years now, the Lord Mayors Big Curry Lunch has raised around £1.6 million to date in aid of The Soldiers Charity. Last year Lord Mountevans acheived a record year with over £250,000 raised. Masters and Clerks representing most of the Livery Companies assembled for 6.30pm in the elegant surroundings of the City Livery Club - a useful place if a quiet and civilised retreat is needed in the midst of the thronging City. We were expecting to heard from the Lord Mayor and key personel involved with the charity - the Lord Mayor was due to speak at 7pm so, making sure we had a freash Cobra to hand, we were shushed to silence on time and the Lady Mayoress appeared to explain that Dr. Parmley was still in Qatar - however, he had recorded a typically amusing message which was relayed via a large TV monitor - during in which he stated his desire to break through the £2m barrier, thus setting us a huge target of £400,000 to raise - that's a lot of curry! After this General Sir Mike Jackson, known to our members from Past Master John Nokes' year told us how important the work undertaken was. I had a quick chat with him afterwards, but the Clerk and I had something else to go on to so we had one last beer and then pushed off to St. James's...
Friday 25th November 2016
As both we and the Environmental Cleaners are modern Companies, Masters tend to find themselves queing up or located at events in the same sort of area. As such, it didn't take long for me to become acquainted with their genial Master, Philip Morrish (yes, that is spelt coorectly and no he's not involved with that company!). Taking place on a friday evening, it was a pleasant way to end the week and, moreover, as it took place at Stationer's Hall - the Hall in whose vaults we store our treasures - I'd offered Philip the use of our rams horn snuff mulls to lend novelty to the proceedings. The Mistress and I arrived on time at 6.45pm and enjoyed some fizz with the Company before we processed in. I was amused to see the visiting Masters had been made a present of a stuffed toy of 'Uncle Bulgaria' - the Head Womble who is Philips light motif for his year, and everyone was given a blue glass christmas tree bauble to celebrate the Companies 30th anniversary. During the meal the Master took wine with the Ladies who remained seated. Like us, they have incorporated a short comfort break before the speeches - and like us, many of them found that outside for a quick puff! Resuming the banquet, the Master introduced his guests - when he got to me, he asked me to demonstrate how to take snuff, which I was delighted to do. I'd charged the mulls with the Special Menthol variety we're using this year and, having taken a pinch off the thumb with Philip, we the circulated the two mulls down the tables whilst the remaining speeches took place. The cacophony of sneezes nearly sabotaged the Mistresses attempts to introduce the Principal Guest - Lesley Thomson who writes crime fiction (her 'detective' being a clever cleaner!). She read a large chunk of her latest page-turner which ended on a cliff hanger sure to boost sales of those listening! After this, Angie, the Mistress presented some awards to delighted members, and then Philip resumed the mic - the sneezing had now moved down the room but there was a lot of laughter too. Winding up the proceedings out we went and the Beadle reunuited me with our mulls which suddenly became popular photo-ops! We had an early start and, having rehoused the mulls, slipped off into the night, however our new friends it seemed were quite fired up and were, I'm informed, still going strong at 1am with several wanting another pinch of snuff - which seems to have gone down a treat. Thank you to the Company for a very jolly evening.
Wednesday 23rd November 2016
As a Livery we support three students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and this evening is set up for us to meet them. Taking place in the superb Milton Court buildings - buildings that will provide a lasting testament to out-going Principal Prof. Barry Iffe - there was a large throng gathered on the first floor reception area. Although I was armed with names and disciplines, I had no idea how to find our students.. luckily that had been anticipated and sort of match-making desk had been set up to put students with sponsors. Thus, the Mistress and self were delighted to meet Ben Smith (paino) and Michael Vickers (bass baritone); sadly Diana Sheach (French horn) was unable to attend, but I am hopeful we'll see her, and the gents, in action soon. Interestingly as there are 900 students here, it's little surprise that none of our scholars had met each other either so it was a useful event to host for all concerned.
Wednesday 23rd November 2016
Formerly known as the Festival of Saint Cecilia, the service always takes place on the Wednesday closest to her traditional feast day, November 22nd. We were represented by myself and the Mistress, the Senior Warden Ralph and his wife Maureen, Third Warden Andrew Golding and the excellent Clerk, Sandra. The Musicians Company have hosted it, with some gaps, since 1685 when Henry Purcell wrote a new anthem each year for it - this now happens with commissions from promising new talent and so we enjoyed Your Tongue's a Gift.. by Toby Young (b.1990) to libretto by Jennifer Thorp (b.1988). We assembled for gowning in the Lady Chapel - surely the poshest dressing room in the world? One forgets just how extraordinary Westminster Abbey is - it's so packed with historic gems and memorials, we were like a pack of meercats as we queued up to process. I count myself lucky as the service alternates between the Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul's. Following the Liverymen of the Musicians Company, all in gowns, we processed down crowded aisles to our seats in reverse order so the Great Twelve had the best seats - we know our place! The service took about an hour and the address was given by flautist James Gallway. Once we'd processed back to our gowning chapel, we went in search of lunch and the Abbey cafe did us proud - really very good and we were surprised to get a table at such short notice. Thanks to the Musicians for a loveley morning.
Monday 21st November 2016
This was the second "Power, Reputation & Influence" lecture organised by fund managers CCLA and Marylebone Executive Search. Staged in the delightful Drapers' Hall, it was attended by around two hundred or so drawn mainly from the charity and livery circuits. It was given by Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC who spoke with conviction for just over half an hour on Cyber Activism, Terrorism and the Role of Business. It was very informative - as this becomes an ever more serious crime the nefarious types who do it become ever more inventive. Questions, somewhat confusingly, were taken and answered in batches of three - predictably the question of how "Brexit" will inform this debate arose and Lord C gamely responded that he knew as much as the Prime Minister about this, i.e. absolutely nothing! (well, he is a Liberal peer of course!). That all done, we repaired to a reception and enjoyed some wine and nibbles. Saw the out-going Master Baker still declaring innocence for the Great Fire - good try! and some nice people from assorted Charities. Despite the stormy night, I'd elected to arrive by motorbike and had a fair run there but didn't stay too late for the journey home. Pausing only to inspect an early portrait of Charles I who had very different ideas about Power, Reputation and Influence, I pushed on. Luckily it was dry, but within five minutes of getting in biblical storms began and I was very relieved to be home!
Thursday 17th November 2016
If for no other reason, it was worth attending this lecture just to see the venue - another of those London gems that has eluded me thus far. A little taste of London from the time of Samuel Pepys, this rare survivor of medievil London was constructed in 1585, survived the Great Fire and was nearly lost in WW2; The stained glass had been removed to safety, but the roof of the Great Hall took a direct hit and so what we see now is a (very good) post-War reconstruction. The Actuaries use this place quite a lot and host this lecture anually. The Master, Sally Bridgeland, introduced us to John Kay, CBE who gave us a facinating and quite amusing lecture entitled Risk and uncertainty in finance and business - an annotated history. Basically, what's the difference between gambling and insurance.. not as much as we'd like to think in a nutshell! One of the examples he cited was the 1880's case of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. who made such extraordinary claims for its efficacy after two months "correct" useage, that a lady who promptly caught influenza after this period sued them - her husband was a lawyer. The defence was constructed by Herbert Asquith, later a PM, who suggested the advertised claims should be considered more of a gamble, than insurance against ill health... They lost. After the lecture, we enjoyed a good meal of duck confit and ice cream with plenty of merlot to see it down. It was only after supper we had questions and they were nearly as amusing as the talk. We wrapped up about 9.30 and dispersed into the chill night, pausing to admire the fine stained glass from the cobbled courtyard as a last treat.
Wednesday 16th November 2016
Running since 1977, this years lecture was given by Dr. Alixe Bovey. Attended only by Masters and Mistresses, and there was a strong turn out. The Master Barber Surgeon, Prof James Carley, introduced Dr. Bovey who's head of research at the Courtauld and a medievilist with interests in illumunated manuscripts and illustrative history; she had chosen to talk on the origins and relationship to the City of Gog and Magog - those giants that are often seen in old prints and which the Basket Maker's have created huge examples of to parade in the Lord Mayor's Show. It was an absorbing lecture and highly interesting, taking us back to Romano-Celtic origins all the way to relatively modern times. After questions and comments, the Barbers put on a very generous reception with delicious canapes and wine and it was a pleasure to meet Dr. Bovey who gamely enjoy a pinch of snuff. It was all very sociable and no surprise when Philip Morrish, the Master Environmental Cleaner and I found we were, once again, the last to leave..
Wednesday 16th November 2016
Every year, just after the Lord Mayor's Show, the Mayor summons all of the Livery Masters and their Clerks to his Official Residence at the Mansion House. Waiting, tea in hand, a massive crash on a gong brought us to order and doors to the magnificent Egyptian Hall swung open. Once we were seated, Dr. Parmley arrived and laid out his plan and direction for the year. As one might expect from a Musician and educator, music, learning and education featured strongly and will be much in evidence. He also introduced us to his team and admitted that for the next year, his life basically wasn't his own! We watched a short presentation about musical charities and then, with mercifully few questions being asked, we went back to the former salon for a champagne reception. Many fellow Masters were also attending the Sir Lionel Denny lecture at Barber Surgeons Hall a little later, thus a little posse of us set off at about 5.30 to walk up to Barbican..
Saturday 12th November 2016
This parade has been going on for over 800 years with various routes and formats. In recent times it has been traditional to stoically process in a steady drizzle or shower of rain and, once again we weren't disappointed - Friday was a fine, clear day, so was Sunday... Saturday however dawned with a steady rain and low cloud that wasn't going anywhere! As usual, the Livery was represented by three walkers - myself, Renter Warden Roger Brookes, and Third Warden Andrew Golding. In addition, Fourth Warden Adam Bennett had been invited to accompany the float organised by St John Ambulance. We rendezvoused at Stationer's Hall to collect our gowns and with that set off to find the Modern Companies Float somewhere on London Wall. This proved to be a gold-coloured Routemaster and we sheltered inside until we were nearly ready for the off around 11am. In fact it was nearer 11.20am by the time we set off. Once again we had full-length Elizabethan churchwarden clays primed and as soon as we hit the proper route, these were lit to great effect with plumes of sweet tobacco smoke encircling us and our marching companions. The rain had reduced to more of a mizzle now, so we didn't use the emergency ponchos the Clerk had kindly rushed to us, but put our faith in gowns, smoking caps and luck. Despite the chilly mizzle, the crowds enthusiasm remained impressively undulled and there was loud cheering all along the route. We sought internal warmth from a flask of the Kings Ginger, a requisite for any veteran of this pageant and found that once again, we were very popular with the other companies marching alongside us! The Master Furniture Maker, Ben Burbidge, had already claimed a charged clay and was very much at home with that and the occasional swig of whatever was to hand. As we rounded the corner to the Mansion House it didn't take long to see our Lord Mayor, Alderman Dr. Andrew Parmley, with our PM and former Sheriff Fiona Adler and her husband David Moss giving us a hearty cheer as we did them! All too soon we had left them and were on the stretch to the H.Q.S. Wellington where packed lunches awaited. Roger had brought sloe gin and this improved the prosecco hugely and we were very pleased to be re-joined by Adam for a swift glass. With lunch done all too soon, it was back to our slot to continue up to Queen Victoria St. Amazingly the crowds had remained in place and were just as vocal and, with church bells ringing all along the route, it was an amazing experience. We carried on at a brisk pace and before we knew it we were on the last legs of Gresham Street where we recovered our coats from the bus and trudged wearily back to Stationers' Hall to drop the gowns off. That done, we noticed it was gone 3.30pm and Roger, Adam and I fell into a tea shop for a very welcome sit down and brew. Half and hour later we went our separate ways. This year the Mistress and I had been invited by the Master Mariners to view the fireworks from aboard the Wellington so it was to there I returned and found a lively party in progress on the "model" deck. I was just getting stuck in when the Clerk announced the Lord Mayor was about to arrive.... Up to the "pointy end" we all went and Ben, myself and David Moss took the opportunity to light up some good Havana cigars whilst we waited. Very soon Dr. Parmley arrived to loud cheers and applause and, accompanied by his Sheriffs and Flavian D'Souza, the Master Mariner, went to the bridge to set off the fireworks - located on a barge bang opposite our location - the best view in London, surely?! At 5.00pm we were treated to a stunning (and stunningly loud) display of fireworks lasting about 25 minutes. With that all done, we then piled back down to the Court Room to hear a few words from the Lord Mayor and Flavian before yet more wine and canapes circulated! By about 7.00pm I don't mind admitting I was fair done in and the Mistress and I were making for the door, coats in hand, when Angus Menzies, the Mariners Clerk, spotted us and frog marched us to the Masters quarters where.. yes, another party was in progress!! We found ourselves singing sea shanties and other light classics with a highly convivial crowd of Flavian's relations and old chums.. as regulars to this blog will know, it's very hard to leave this ship with any dignity and so it was late when we fairly fell into a taxi and so home to bed..
Tuesday 25th October 2016
As many of you know our Chaplain, the Revd Canon David Parrott is not exclusively ours.. as Guild Vicar he's the main link to our Lord for another ten Companies no less, so when he wants a new altar frontal, he gets one! Happily his words were acted upon by the talented Vivienne Havell (Liveryman of the WC Gold and Silver Wire Drawers) and Amanda MacEachen and they designed and embroidered a bespoke new frontal for the altar. It's a glorious bit of work and rammed with symbolic motifes connected to St. Lawrence - including the perseid meteor shower which occurs anunally around his supposed birthday of the 10th August. There is a booklet at SLJ's which explains it all in detail - so I won't dent the rush by giving it all away here! Behind is an equally impressive set of crests from each of the David's companies - all eleven of us and who all contributed to this splendid pairing. The quality of needlework is outstanding and, if David's sermons aren't enough to tempt you to church, then a peak at this should be..
Monday 24th October 2016
Arriving at the magnificent Merchant Taylors' Hall sharp at 5pm to supervise the last details with the Learned Clerks, Beadle and Musicians, we errected a new portable stand for the re-discovered Livery Arms to hang from - it proved to be a great success and was placed behind the Master's chair for the evening. We were more or less ready for Phil the Photographer to take a few snaps of me with the Wardens and partners before the Mistress and self got into the welcoming line at 6.30pm and everyone who'd arrived early (thank you!) was exited and returned to their fizz in as short an order as possible. We were kept busy and with the arrival of the Cuban Ambassador and her husband, we were ready and everyone took to their seats. I chose this hall for three reasons: The lovely courtyard (now with a temporary partial glazing); the capacious size so one doesn't feel cramped, and best of all the splendid organ - the only livery hall to retain one. I'd found Peter Holder , a sub-organist from St. Paul's Cathedral thanks to IPM Chris Allens' contacts and he was flawless. Breaking with the usual, we came in to the glorious 'Mohrentanz' by Tylman Susato and, once behind our chairs the Beadle rang (yes rang) for grace using the bell from Queen Victoria's Royal Yacht (Victoria & Albert). The Chaplain then gave an excellent grace which I record here:
Whene’re I’m called a grace to type
I worry lest the punters gripe
And afterwards will take a swipe
And start to email or to Skype.
But no, a grace is never hype
Thanks be to God, the time is ripe,
For food and Loving Cups to wipe
And if you think this grace is tripe
And seems to be a prototype
At least the lines all rhyme with pipe!
And with that, we tucked in. The in house caterers had excelled themselves and we were favoured with blue cheese souffle, followed by a generous bit of pheasant (with two bits of lead shot for me!) and a lovely trio of fruity desserts, washed down with Australian white and red, and a nice chilled dessert. That done, sung grace was accompanied by Peter of course and then we had a Loving Cup - this is always popular and to encourge us, Peter played background music of Waltons 'Popular Song' and then 'In Party Mood' which some will recognise from the old 'Housewives Choice' BBC programme. Following this had the Loyal Toast and sang the National Anthem. Now it was time for the Smoking Cap ceremony - naturally I offered our Principal Guest Roger Royle (much to his surprise!) and Her Excellency a pinch of snuff which they sportingly took and passed the mulls on down the branches. We then had a ten minute comfort break - this goes against some city traditions, but I think it's a sensible interlude and, needless to say, some additional comfort was found in the smoking area too.. On our return, 3rd Warden, Andrew Golding, ably introduced our guests and we toasted their health. The response from the Reverand Cannon Roger Royle was amusingly irreverand and he more than got his own back for the snuff episode! He was a hard act to follow and I didn't attempt to, but rounded off the proceedings as well as I could and we then enjoyed some music provided by Peter accompanied by soprano Elizabeth Karani - one of our Guildhall Alumni, and one to watch; she gave us 'Tournami' from Alcina by Handel; 'Smoke gets in your Eyes' (Kern & Harbach); and a tour de force 'Alleluia' from Mozart's Exultate Jubilate - the enthused response prompted an encore of 'Summertime' by Gershwin. We were right on time now and with all done, Peter played us out to the March from Handel's 'Occasional Oratorio' and mighty fine it was too. We repaired to the courtyard conservatory where a stirrup cup of cognac, armanac and wine etc. awaited and, out in the smoking area, we'd put a box of cigarellos and a jar of good pipe tobacco as every guest had been given a clay pipe and could now charge it if they wished. We had a lively 40 minutes social before the evening closed (more or less on time) and we fell in to taxi's home - if eveyone enjoyed it all as much as I did, we had a jolly good night!
Thursday 20th October 2016
We have enjoyed a long association with the WC Fanmakers and it's always a pleasure to attend their functions as I've known several of them for many years. This years was at the lovely Skinners Hall on Dowgate Hill and they were supported by some of the officers and crew from HMS Westminster with whom they're affiliated. Having enjoyed a drink, we were clapped in and I sat between two past Masters, one of whom was now serving as Clerk to the Gunmakers Company, and very interesting too. At the stirrup cup afterwards I struck up conversation with a liveryman and mentioned in passing that the company seemed well stocked for High Court Judges - "why is that" he asked, " couldn't say, but suppose they're like migrating birds and flock together" I replied.. he was of course Mr Justice Cooke! I also saw IPM Painter Stainer Tony Ward, now feeling underdressed in his PM's badge, but bearing up nicely all considered. The Clerk and I left with last of them including our genial host, the Master, Rear Admiral Paul Hoddinott CB OBE.
Wednesday 19th October 2016
The Freemasons provide significant support to the London Air Ambulance and so it was only natural that they hosted the venue for this Livery fundraiser. Supported by many Companies, it was good to see old friends. After a suitable time had elapsed to allow everyone to turn up, we were introduced to one of the flying doctors who use this service regularly. It seems that the Masons not only pay for the whole machine and equipment, but also the running costs associated with it - a sum running to several million pounds per annum. As it is they raise over £10m to keep things going, but are looking to expand the service and add a machine if possible. That done, we were allowed to wander around the Temple and admire the very impressive architecture of the main Hall, or "square" as I believe it's called. However, it's an evening that takes place entirely standing and, having arrived at 6pm the Clerk and I were tired by 8.15 and went to look for a curry near by...
Monday 17th October 2016
This dinner was hosted for Masters and Clerks by Lord Mayor-elect Andrew Parmley for all of his Companies - I don't know if having 18 of them in a record, but it must be close. As such, what one might have imagined would be an intimate little affair numbered 104! Arriving at the glorious Vintners Hall early (6.45pm) as instructed, and sans badge - by decree - we were indulged with a champagne reception. Amongst the throng was our own Fiona Adler and husband David Moss - old hands at this game themselves now, they're set to have a busy year as Fiona works alongside the Lord Mayor. Gavelled in all too early, I found myself next to the Vintner's Clerk, Brigadier Jonathan Bourne-May which proved to be a good move as somehow Andrew had pinched the keys to the Vintners cellar and the wines served were more than acceptable - and not a decanter passed us without a top up thanks to the Clerk! An excellent meal of smoked trout, duck, foie gras, and lemon something or other was rounded off with a rose bowl and then a rousing rendition of the grace, played at the forte-piano by the Master Musician no less. Over coffee we had two short but entertaining speeches given by Alderman Sir David Wootton and, in reply, Andrew of course, and I'm pleased to report the Clerk was game for a pinch of snuff - and, despite explosive results, he came back for seconds. It transpired that it was Andrew P's birthday, so whilst we all sang the song, a huge cake emblazoned with a depiction of Blackpool Tower went up to High Table to have a candle representing ?? years blown out. Then a saxaphone quartet amused us with two or three musical bom bouche. All that remained to endure was the stirrup cup and, weak-willed as ever, I allowed myself a dram of the 1976 cognac on offer. So ended a lovely evening and what I hope will be a strong portent of things to come.. we have a good year ahead methinks!
Friday 14th October 2016
Our redoubtable Renter and Third wardens decided to behave like a pair of lemmings for this charity event supported by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. The idea was to abseil from the steeple of St. Lawrence Jewry - 100ft off the ground and 180 steps up a narrow and steep staircase. I arrived at 09.30am to find the intrepid duo had already ascended and were awaiting their turn. A modest but vocal crowd including the Clerk, Assistant Clerk, Senior Warden and others awaited their safe return and our Chaplain was praying - mostly for the safety of his clock dial, but it was just as well to have him on standby as there were no emergency services apparent. At 09.50 the familiar forms balanced precariously on the edge of the tower and down they came. They both seemed quite relaxed about it, Roger in proper extreme sports kit looked like he was in his natural environment, Andrew had gone for style over substance and very properly wore a collar and tie, what a Chap! They made it in about 5 mins and, in doing so, had raised over £1,000 thanks to our generous livery. Despite the early hour, both were keen recipients of a large and generous G&T. We spotted the Lord Mayor pottering around, so grabbed him for a snap, he seemed to be having a good day as it was all in mufti and he had no speeches to make! Well done boys - the succession is secured it seems!
Thursday 13th October 2016
Mercers' Hall is a bit like the Tardis - the modest frontage cannot convey the size and magnificence of the salons beyond. This lovely hall is in its third incarnation since they were founded around 1300, the others burned and blitzed as we hear so commonly. This one was completed by 1958 in neo-Georgian manner and I hope will last a longer than its forebears. Our No.1 Company supports musical scholarships at both of the St. Paul's Schools and this annual event showcases some of their most talented girls and boys. Before we got to that however, we were generously hosted with a champagne reception and, as one might imagine, it was a capacity event - Masters responding late were politely declined, so take note all ye who expect to serve as one. Several newly installed Masters were making debut appearances, and we were also saying goodbye to some - the last night of Office for the Master Currier, but the first for Master Constructor, and so it goes on. A little before 7pm we were summoned to another large chamber where seats were organised in a gentle horseshoe around a piano and chairs. After welcomes and introductions by Master John Robertson, young Ned Ashcroft (16) lead the evening with a plucky but obscure piece for trumpet by Johann Neruda, who I didn't know, but who was a contemporary of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, whom I do, and very jolly it was too. This was followed by a selection of good exhibition pieces by Liszt, Dvorack, Mendelssohn, and just in case you though it was all too safe, a modern piano trio by Rebecca Clarke provided a pleasant dissonant contrast. The whole thing was rounded off near 8pm by a spirited rendition of the Rondeau-Allegro (3rd movt) from Mozarts oboe concerto and then, applause done, we were invited to an informal, but seated supper in their large, double dining room where fillet of beef was washed down with Berry's Good Ordinary Claret - all very satisfactory, and no speeches or toasts either. Dinner done we took advantage to admire some of the Mercers pictures - a lovely rendition of Dick Whittington - Mercer of course, and Lord Mayor three times, and a colossal long case clock with green japanning. I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with young Ned who I am sure will succeed handsomely with his trumpet if he pursues it. Thank you Mercers for a lovely evening.
Wednesday 12th October 2016
This excellent exhibition is only organised every four years, so I and the Mistress were fortunate to be in office this year. I don't know what the collective noun for a lot of turners is - a 'shaving' perhaps, or a 'spin', whatever it is, there were a lot of them here, each by a well lit stand sporting the best examples of their labours. As one might expect, the turnout by Masters, Mistresses and Clerks was more than a match and we filled the Great Hall to capacity. Sipping champagne as Master Turner Nicholas Somers welcomed us and introduced the Sheriffs to formally "open" this (selling) exhibition, we were encouraged to spend spend spend.. As ever, one gets hooked up with some chum or other and it was quite a feat to get around the two rooms of stands, especially as the creators were on hand to chat to and explain it all. There were some breathtaking feats of the art present, and an excellent exhibition of older material that once belonged to the legendary 19th century lathe maker and turner Holtzappel (look him up!). In fact many of the exhibitors own or use these antique lathes, or their components as they can find obscure chucks and patterns that no long exist and are much more interesting to use. It's interesting to ponder what, really, the difference is to a bit of lignum vitae turned on an 1830 lathe is to the same lathe and chucks being used now - apart from physical aging, the pieces are identical, even if separated by two centuries. Greatly tempted as I was, I managed to resit buying anything - having learnt my lesson from last weeks "Art in the City" event - mainly because I have no space left to put anything. At all. We were however, just about the last to be kicked out. Thank you Turners - I'm sure Adam will enjoy this event when his turn as Master comes to fruition in four years time...
Thursday 6th October 2016
This Company is numbered 83, as a consequence, they walk two behind us in the Lord Mayors Show - or at least they're supposed to.. The last two years we have smoked our long churchwardens and, it seems, enticed a number of those following to catch up and walk with us! As a result of this, and later at Ironbridge, Master Ben Burbidge and I have got to know one another and we now provide a pipe for him to join us at the Show. Ben kindly invited us to this lunch which naturally takes place at the newly refurbished Furniture Makers Hall, a bijou place, but very nicely appointed (and with excellent furniture!). Meeting the patient Clerk outside at 12.30, we joined the maelstrom inside. Master Ben soon found us and, together with the Master Draper, we passed the few short minutes before the shock of the gavel summoned us. Suffice to say they gave us a very jolly reception and lunch - perhaps only 60 or so of us, so quite small, but was very pleased to have fine company either side of me - the Master Turner (Nicholas Somers) and Liveryman Patrick Lennox tried my blend of snuff, with mixed results, but they felt very good afterwards!. The Master Draper proposed the toast, seconded by the Prime Warden who noted our habit of poaching Masters to join our merry band.. Thank you Ben and Wardens - see you at the Show in a month or so, and on the circuit before then I'm sure..
Thursday 6th October 2016
I was a fortunate interloper at this event - a last minute drop out had given up one of the precious 20 places and so I was the only male visitor to attend this long-sold out event. Meeting at 18.15 for an 18.30 start in the Court Room, we enjoyed one of the most interesting evenings I can recall of late. There's just too much to detail here, but we were met and guided by the Windsor Herald, William Hunt who was a mine of data. The whole place is run on properly Feudal lines - it sort of sidesteps all attempts to be captured by the modern world and, as such, amazingly receives no public funds at all - and yet the service it provides and, more to the point, the records it maintains are of staggering consequence to our nation - the only "copies" are on microfiche, nothing is digitized or stored off site as there're no monies to do so, and yet the nations life blood - beautifully illustrated on vellum, parchment or quality paper is all contained here. If this body of 13 officers don't approve your arms, they are not recognised, thus the clap-trap Posh & Becks contrived for their wedding was a nonsense, however, had they been able to find £5,750.00 between them, they could have commissioned a Patent of Arms that would have not only served them, but their kids and descendants out in perpetuity.. they ignored both letters from the College pointing this out, so perhaps they're hard up after all?! Every set of armorials is tailored to the individual and so some frankly eccentric designs were shown to us which was a great joy - the lacey legs of ladies of the night gracing the shield of a lawyer who'd spent a lifetime helping them (legally!) must have been one of the best - as he had no kids, they died with him as a one-off. William also showed us the book from 1663 in which the (uncolored) design for our Livery was located - several present thought we should return to them, but I'll name no names! Perhaps the most ostentatious artifact was a Royal Lineage prepared for George III - a stunning volume dripping with gold leaf and colorful arms taking the Royal Line back to about the year 238 or something, incredible - but never paid for, so it remains with the College. I doubt her Majesty could afford it now anyway.. Having spent an hour or so in the archives, we returned to a chamber to find a very tasty buffet supper and wine had been spread out and set to with gusto, they don't have professional caterers there, so William and the porter do it all - as a consequence, it's amazingly good value - the whole evening, 2 hour tour, supper and wine came in at just £36.00! During supper Camilla thanked William for his superb presentation and presented him with one of our clay pipes and I thanked Camilla for her hard work in putting together a most fine evening - even if I was an honorary 'gal' for the night!
Tuesday 4th October 2016
Every year the Painter Stainers Company hosts an exhibition of art, produced in the main (but not exclusively) by members of the Company. So it was I found myself and a good number of Masters attending this civilized opening evening. Plenty of fizz, nibbles and gossip which I had to occasionally break away from to actually look at the approximately 185 works on offer - yes, this is a selling exhibition.. I was very pleased to find newly installed Master Tax Advisor, Kevin Thomas who stood next to a very striking portrait (not for sale!) and meet a liveryman, Hugh Beattie who was exhibiting a large oil entitled 'Royal Exchange v Cheese Grater'. At this point the near-outgoing Master Tony Ward brought us to order to unveil a newly donated painting and officially welcome us. Carrying on, the room started thinning and I suddenly realised how vulnerable to art-attack I was.. artists swirling around the thinning number of Masters keen to sell something. Finally, I was cornered by the charming Julie Cox and her husband who, in a clever pincer movement caught me with my guard down and I came away with a ceramic owlette for the Mistress! Still, a very nice evening and the owl looks good next to the bathroom radio..
Thursday 29th September 2016
For some reason the timings slipped during the election and we left a good half hour late. the Senior Warden had already hot-footed it to Stationer's Hall and the Clerk and I gave chase as fast as we could. Only time for a quick gargle before and in we went, sharing a table with the Arbitrators - a nice bunch, as they should be I suppose! Welcomed by the Master, they were hosting 18 Companies today and he introduced each in turn to give a cheer - of course we all try to cheer louder than the last and, in my enthusiasm, I managed to smash PM Mark Gower-Smith's side plate!! Salmon, Lamb and something involving white chocolate was washed down with good French red and then the Master Baker thanked our hosts on our behalf. Whilst he acknowledged that the circumstantial evidence was strongly against one of his Company's liverymen having caused the Great Fire of London, he protested that were was no hard evidence and it wasn't really that bad, was it?! Stationers was of course one of the Halls burned down but, despite his report that they'd lost their records, the Master corrected the room by saying they have them going back well in to the 16th Century, so some good news there. Lunch finished close to 4pm and we were encouraged to push off as the caterers had to reset the room for a function later. So back to the office went I, my bike conveniently to hand.
Thursday 29th September 2016
Arrived Guildhall crypt and there met Beadle Anderson who had me gowned etc. From thence processed with Other Masters to St. Lawrence Jewry over the yard, we much afeared of rainy weather, but all passed well. Service of thanks giving performed well by Canon Parrott and with excellent musick from organ and choir. Service done, we to Common Hall where witnessed and agreed to the election of Alderman Parmley to be next Lord Mayor - and methinks he will be most excellent in this role as he brings a ready wit and lightness of touch much enjoyed by my fellow Masters and self. From thence to the crypt to dispose of gown etc. and then to lunch.
Thursday 29th September 2016
Masters and Clerks can, if they wish, attend a breakfast in the Guildhall Club before robing for the service and elections etc. My original plan to arrive at a relaxed 9am was shot down in flames by the Clerk who insisted I attend at 8am - all good Masters obey their Clerks and so it was that I had parked my motorcycle at Stationers Hall by 7.45am and walked to Guildhall to arrive by 7.55am. At this point I bumped into Master WC Engineers, Isabelle Pollolk-Hulf and quite forgot I was supposed to wait for ye Clerk... I was on my first glass of bucks fizz when her enquiring text arrived and I 'fessed up - Sorry Sandra! Everything at the breakfast was from Blackpool - Alderman Parmley's home town, and we had been kindly provided with souvenir mugs of the occasion - thank you Mark of Cook & Butler. At around 10am or so, filled to the brim with coffee, we trouped off to find a Beadle, a gown and a chain...
Wednesday 28th September 2016
Meeting at the elegantly-appointed Royal Aeronautical Society off Park Lane at 6pm, I guess around two-thirds of the Citys Masters and Clerks attended this lecture which promised to be very interesting. We were graced with the presence of HRH Prince Michael of Kent so, minding our P's and Q's, we tripped down to the lecture hall. The Master, WC AIr Pilots Peter Bunn introduced the guest speaker, Chris Daniel who is ?running the Airlander project - the huge, double-hulled airship that's in testing now. Dealing first with "the incident" (where it crashed on its second test flight), the next 45 mins or so were quite fascinating as Chris explained the enormous potential of the thing. Obviously a test flight is just that and lessons have been learned. With technology moving so fast, it seems that if the idea takes off (sorry!), the globe will soon be covered with airships monitoring our every move - the initial idea is for protecting game reserves etc, but with one craft able to watch over at least 100 sq miles of the globe, and be remotely operated without crew and, perhaps even to be solar powered, these things could just potter about Big Brother style and watch over everything - I'm not sure if that's comforting or not, but there are clearly some benefits. As it uses inert helium (of which there's plenty - ignore the press!) it's almost impossible to shoot down and can fly higher than a lot of conventional aircraft... After some good questions, we went upstairs to a salon for wine and bits, and to my delight, found a great terrace for me to enjoy my pipe. Bumping into our newest Liveryman, Master WC Scientific Inst. Maker's, Chris Sawyer, he invited me back to his club, the RAC to find more substantive fodder and wine.. and two lovely Montecristo cigars... thank you Chris. I trotted home in reasonable time as I had strict orders to be at breakfast the next morning!
Saturday 24th September 2016
We support the London Regiment and, every year, they host a dinner to commemorate the Battle of Loos as close to the date(s) of the battle (25 Sept - 15 Oct) as they can. Arriving at their Camberwell Barracks in lounge suit, I felt positively under-dressed compared to the splendid Mess Dress most of my hosts were wearing. Met by Tim, the CO, I gave him a cigar for later and he stood me a g&t - a fair swap I thought. As Guest of Honour I was seated next to Major Bob Brown, our old friend and advsersary from many shooting matches, and Lady Elizabeth Arnold, Deputy Lieutenant for Kensington & Chelsea, both of whom proved excellent company. Sat in front of us was a magnificent bit of mess silver on top of which was a leather football - this was THE football some bright officer threw out of the trench for the men to dribble towards the enemy's massed machine guns during the battle - this was later copied in several other actions of the Great War, but here in front of us was the original and first ball used. The battle was glorious, but not victorious.. as usual the artillery failed to clear the wires, the machine guns were undamaged, and attempts to follow up captured ground (including the infamous Hill 70) not seized upon. Despite brief gains and unparalleled heroism, we basically ended up much as we started, but 20,000 casualties (inc. three Major Generals) the poorer. We had an account of the action after the Loyal Toast and, then the London Irish pipe band entertained us - my ears are still ringing! All that done, the room decanted back to the bar where several fines of port were owed for various sins throughout the evening, however Lady Arnold kindly offered me a lift and deposited me some time around 11.30 within cabs reach of home. Thanks to the London Regiment for a fun evening!
Friday 23rd September 2016
Our Livery is a "Leadership Giving" level contributor to this excellent institution located in the Barbican. Enjoying a glass with other donors in a private room, the Principal, Prof Barry Ife, CBE welcomed us and explained that the students who were to perform for us had only met each other two weeks ago. You would never have guessed it - their talent, and enthusiasm shone through and they gave exceptional performances. The first half was given to the Guildhall Jazz Band and choir - the lead intruments swapping occasionally - there were at least four drummers, and a bank of seven guitars as well! They performed "21st Century Pastoral" by one of the professors, Iain Bellamy who soloed on Saxophone for much of it. It was good stuff - a bit above my intellect truth be told, reminicent of "Moolighting meets Kojack" to me, but then my muscial education stops around 1950! I was on safer ground in the second half when the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra & Chorus gave terrific renditions of Brahms' Academic Overture - with the rarely done choral finale; and a blistering account of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast - Walton wrote this when he was 27/8 and performed by such an energetic and talented group, it was almost overwhelming. the baritone, Christopher Cull, was an alumni of the place who's clearly on a northward trajectory, so it was rather a shame when, as all good things must, the evening came to an end. Our outbound journey had been blighted from first to last by London Transport, so an Uber was summoned, the first we'd had actually playing classical music, things are looking up!
Tuesday 20th September 2016
This was the first of my four Court meetings that I Chair during my year. Although the meeting started at 5.00pm, I was aboard our favourite Livery Hall, H.Q.S. Wellington by about 2.30 to attend to one or two matters, not the least of which was meeting Daniel Preece, a rising artist and friend who had requested he take my portrait in full garb and so we met for some reference shots. Watch this space as I hope to provide occasional updates. The members arrived for tea and biccie by 4.30 and we started on time. We remembered late Past Masters Richard Dunhill and Richard Vanderpump, and Liveryman Ken Rich with a two minute silence after eulogies had been given. I was delighted to gown three new Liverymen: Dr. Marina Murphy; Henry Tuck and our own excellent Clerk, Sandra Stocker. With all business concluded about an hour later, we were very pleased to have plenty of time for a social glass and smoke on the upper deck for a good hour before dinner - time flies. We had a record turn out of 35 for this dinner (it is Court only, no guests) and the Hon Chaplain, impatient for his starter, called us to order and gave the following grace:
We meet tonight upon the River
And pray outside we may not shiver
We drink a cup and eat a sliver
The Master will a toast deliver
Praise God, who is the heavenly giver
Lord, bless our Master and his liver
The MM's have installed some curious green lighting on the quarter deck, stll, it did the trick well enough and I sat between Marina and Henry. Taking the Chaplain at his word, we set to - fish in lobster sauce; saddle of lamb and warm pear with icecream, all washed down with good French vino, and finishing with coffee, port and armanac. I toasted the new Liverymen and the the Queen so we could enjoy the terrific cigar provided by Hunter Frankau - delicious, I was delighted to see Marina relishing hers too, and many of us were pleased to use the new smoking hat. Around 10ish there was a steady thinning as trains had to be caught, but there are always a few hangers on and PM Derek Harris and I have history with being the last as a rule - but even he called time. Capt. Flavian D'Souza, Master Mariner kindly pressed the last hangers on to join him for a final night cap in his well appointed private sitting room behind the bridge and so it was with the Renter Warden and Clerk we finally departed the Wellie some time after 12pm... Flavian waved us off and so ended a good, but long, day.
Thursday 15th September 2016
Twenty-four Livery companies represented by forty-five mainly Masters and Senior Wardens met at 8am in the air-conditioned comfort of HQS Wellington for a breakfast of bacon butties, croissants and coffee. Our task was to walk all 40 Livery halls before the close of day - and it was a hot day! This was the eleventh year this event has been organised by the WC Environmental Cleaners and, as in previous years, we had to wear gowns, gongs and if you wanted, hats. I took an early decision to abandon ties and even jackets and wondered if I'd get away with shorts for one brief moment - but used an old gas mask bag as a "man bag" to carry the days essentials (pipes, tobacco, snuff..); As it happened I was in good company and about half the Masters had elected for "cool mufti", whilst some stoics had gone for dark suits, ties and brogues. I'm pleased to say Senior Warden Ralph Edmondson upheld sartorial standards very nicely and I felt rather shabby next to his fine turn out - but as soon as the EC Senior Warden summoned us to the upper deck for our first group snap, I no longer cared, it was going to be a scorcher and getting through without dehydration or heat exhaustion was my main concern! We set off on time (close to 9am) looking like a senior alumni from Hogwarts and proceeded up towards Queen Victoria St. It was all very well thought out - tackling ten halls per "slot" makes it all seem more manageable, and we had a group snap outside each and every one - the smiles did become a little rictus by the 30's, but all with good humour. Our first break, for morning coffee, was at the Barber Surgeons where I made full use of their terrace and lit Richard Tranter's churchwarden pipe which was much admired - several Masters came over to stimulate their senses with plumes of sweet pipe smoke. I should add that Ralph and I had planned to wear our Company smoking hats, but they were too small and so I resorted to the back up plan of the new smoking cap - which I'm delighted to say was universally admired by my fellow Masters, hall staff and members of the public wherever we were - with some other Companies keen to produce their own version - imitation is the highest form of flattery and that's how I took it! Concluding coffee, we set off at a good pace and, ten halls later arrived at Armourers where Mark Grove and his team gave us a fine - and welcome lunch (lamb & beef stroganoff, white and dark choc mousse/coffee). Refreshed, off we went again, wending our way to our official tea break at Furniture Maker's Hall, but before we could quite get there, the Drapers' Company kindly gave us a glass of chilled fizz in their beautiful (and newly planted) gardens with the Hon Clerk, Col Winstanley gallantly topping us up, which was very kind. A short hop and we did arrive at the charming Furniture Maker's Hall and made short work of the tea and seed cake on offer. Given a pep talk - some of us were beginning to flag - we set off for the "last hour" at about 3.30 and the last ten halls. The first of these was Carpenters' Hall and we were amused to find a can of "wood filler" (complete with an empty fag packet!) waiting on the steps; We began to suspect the timing was hopeful however, and indeed it was too optimistic - as we crossed London Bridge towards our final destination of Glaziers' Hall, the clock was approaching 5pm - it was still sunny though, so who cared? The Glaziers had organised Bucks Fizz as a finale, served in the Courtyard of the lovely Southwark Cathedral and so we drew together for one final, slightly weary photograph having to a Master (or Warden) thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful day. Thanks indeed to the Master and Clerk Environmental Cleaners -- we loved all nine miles of it!
Tuesday 13th September 2016
I met Master Tony Ward at Ironbridge where we discovered a mutual interest in antique firearms. I was delighted to receive this invitation to what was his Last Hurrah as we have, as Companies, an historic association going back to the 17th Century - we used their hall until the smoking ban and they still have very fond memories of the fug we created at various banquets - cursed politicians take note: we all enjoyed it and no one asked you to queer the pitch! To reinforce this point I presented Tony with a fine torpedo cigar as I arrived for him to enjoy in the quiet moments of retirement. Catching up with new and old pals over Champagne, we were gavelled in and I had most agreeable dinner parters - Alan Borg (ex head Imperial War Museum/v&A); John Browning (Master Gunmaker) - a rarity for being a Yank Master, I did point out if it hadn't been for that tea party "all this could have been theirs" - he took it in good part, and wasn't heavily armed as it turned out. Over the leaf (I was off top table) was Oliver Wise (Master Grocer) a nemesis as it turned out from the PG Wodehouse Cricket Team - as lobster bowler for the Sherlock Holmes Soc, we meet annually to play to the Laws of 1895 where I attempt to claim scalps with deceptively simple bowling... I forget if I've claimed Olivers, but there's still time.. As a Grocer, they had the original remit for Tobacco, so there's plenty of animosity to be unearthed between us if we try hard enough! We then had some excellent music by the Perks Ensemble playing some high brow Beethoven and Jean Francois - I loved it, most refreshing for a Livery do. The Principal Guest was Lewis McNaught, MD of the Mall Galleries who gave an insightful break down of the state of the art market. I pretty much agreed with him and, if you want the low down, buy good marine art and dump your contemporary, it's a disaster waiting to happen (knew it!). Thereafter a stirrup cup where I caught up with Tony, his daughter Charlotte, newly installed as a Liveryman and about to go to Bristol, Lewis, Tony's wife Elizabeth and several others, before peeling off into the still warm night to surprise an Uber home..
Thursday 8th September 2016
Since its inauguration three years ago under Past Master Mark Gower Smith, this has now become London's most exclusive cigar dinner. Meeting for drinks (and varied smokes) on the private balcony of the Nancy Astor Room at the In & Out Club in St. James's Square, nine Past Masters plus myself met for our preprandials. Alas, Southern Rail's ludicrous strike had claimed a couple of scalps, and PM Simon Orlik had, in trying to impersonate Andy Murray, come a cropper on the tennis court this very morning and had had to cry off with "wounds unbecoming". At 7.30 I called order of sorts and we assembled to dine in this rather lovely room - Nancy Astor's old bedroom, apparently.. Prawn Cocktail, braised beef and tarte tatin were washed down with good French vino and a nice sticky from the Colonies (Australia). I'd arranged for coffee, port and a good torpedo cigar to be consumed in the pleasant courtyard and so it was to here we adjourned and sat for a hour or so - Rolf Christophersen developed a taste for the truffles so these were placed within easy reach! Around 10pm there was a gentle shuffling until it was left to just Richard Yeo and myself to set the world to rights. We thought we did a pretty good job, but then the port decanter was empty and it was half eleven when we tottered through the now silent rooms.. Over to Ralph for next year's when I will be pleased to attend as Immediate Past Master!
Tuesday 6th September 2016
Having had to miss the June Smoking Club, I was very pleased to come to the new Committee's latest wheeze: The splendid open deck bar, (fairly) newly created at the London Hippodrome. This is a venue I've passed for over 20 years and never stepped inside... well, it's extraordinary - a Frank Matcham theatre, conceived as a circus and now, after several variants, a Casino, Theater, Restaurant and Bar - you can just have a drink and a smoke (they keep a fine humidor if you're caught short), or try their excellent steak and lobster House dish - very fine too. Whilst Tony Scanlon chairs this Committee, it was Assistant Elise Rasmussen who organised the excellent evening. About 25 of us found our way to the reserved smoking deck where we were entitled to two drinks from the bar, and plenty of good bites were circulated. Assistant Colin Ritchie kindly gave me a Montecristo No.2 and, when that was done, I stoked up the silver-mounted churchwarden kindly given me by Past Master Richard Tranter, and a darn good smoke it was too. Several guests had joined us, and we were very pleased to welcome Peter, the Manager of the place who gave us a fascinating potted history. Well done to Tony, Elise and the team - roll on the next one...
Monday 5th September 2016
And so, after a break for Summer, the Livery Season begins again. The Modern Companies (ie those founded after 1927) enjoy a get together every six months or so and it's all very convivial. We don't have the baggage of the older Companies - as Sherriff Dr. Christine Rigden told us, we're young, vibrant and hard working and set an example to be followed. Well, that was the thrust of it, by the time the stirrup cup ended, I felt older, more confused and.. I'll stop there I think. The evening was kindly hosted this time by the WC Constructors and their Master Graeme Monteith and Senior Warden proved most hostpitable as soon as we'd take off our hats in the Farmers Fletchers Hall - a modern hall which I wish I'd had longer to examine. The ship's bell from HMS London rang out summon us for dinner and we found ourselves in a cosy hall with economical ceilings. Dining on potted shrimp, rack of lamb and summer pud put us all in good spirit and, by the time we got to coffee I'd managed to convert my immediate dining companions to try snuff - Lady Davies (Chartered Surveyors) came back for seconds and I knew I'd ready client in Ben Burbage (Furniture Makers) - Leo Martin (Builder's) and Nick Hughes (Solicitors) were also keen I'm pleased to report. Once the formalities of toasts were concluded, we did the Loving Cup - Ralph showed a fine example over the way from me, but the Clerk to the IT Technologist excelled himself when, with an enthusiastic flourish, he smashed a ceiling lamp leaving a lone wire suspended above their heads! After this, Dr. Rigden gave us a witty address about some of the pitfalls and highlights of serving in her role - I particularly liked the anecdote where, having processed in full magnificent Shrival fig through St. Pauls, she unwittingly blocked the Lord Mayor from attaining his seat and, unable to move forwards, or back, he hovered in restless silence. It was left to the Chief Commoner to command her by 'use of eyeballs alone' to make the penny finally drop and all was well... The stirrup cup afterwards was good value and, catching up with those we'd missed, I found that, as usual, I was one of the last to leave and, with Senior Warden Ralph we tottered out into a humid night to find cabs and beds respectively.
Wednesday 20th July 2016
This is the second year this walk has been organised and I think it may become a calendar favourite amongst the Livery bretheren. The Mistress and myself joined approximately forty Masters, Mistresses and a Clerk or two rendezvoused from 9.30 in St. Pauls Crypt for bacon butties and coffee. Casually dressed, in deference to the heatwave, many of us were in shorts with Panama hats (I don't think I saw a single baseball cap, praise God!). At 10.15 the Clerk of the Plumbers (the Plumbers were organising this year's walk) divided us into two parties and we were allocated a guide and, as in our case, it was Past Master Mercer (2003), Mike Dudgeon. Once we were assembled by the old Temple Bar in Paternoster Square, we morphed into tourists and gawped and snapped with the best of them. Mike was a fount of knowledge and anecdotes and I shamelessly clung to every word as it was just so interesting. Many of us have visited a church or two and perhaps think that box has been ticked - well, unless you go with a guide like Mike, it hasn't. Over the course of the day we visited but twelve of the City's remaining 40 churches (109 were lost in the Great Fire alone!) but each and every one of them yielded gem after gem for either beauty, originality, artefacts and in most cases all three. Where can you see an original Epstein bust in a quiet green location? - why, the yard of St Vedast alias Foster of course! Where can you see the most astonishing fan vaulting in original condition? - St. Mary Aldermary, naturally - Wren's only Gothic church, done on account of a benefactor rejecting all the new-fangled neoclassical re-building that was going on, but Wren just made Gothic even more beautiful. On we went until at lunch time we came to a great rarity - where in London can you spy a Revd. Canon smoking his pipe? Look no further than our own Livery church, St Lawrence Jewry. We rested there for lunch (Mark Grove on good form as ever) and, whilst we chomped and quaffed, we were entertained by a young pianist whose name I regret I can't recall - he was very good, but what I didn't know was that St. L's owns and uses Sir Thomas Beecham's grand piano! After lunch we set off at much the same pace (ie quite slow as the "tourist" element was still much in evidence!) and made a failed attempt to get into St. Stephen Walbrook - this was a shame as the dome (which can be seen from the street) was Wren's 'practice' dome for St. Paul's, he having never built one before. After that domes became a bit of a feature and I was quite unprepared for the fully painted huge example in St. Mary Abchurch. My next favourite was St Magnus the Martyr, and I love it because its yard is a tiny fragment of Old London Bridge, complete with a sample of Roman piling and medieval stone pont nearby, and a wonderful clock dated 1703 over the door and which originally would have been the first thing you saw as you came off the bridge and looked up. Inside it is rather too high church for my Anglican tastes, a strong whiff of incense abounded, but there's the most terrific model of Old London Bridge as at about 1415, modelled by Liveryman Plumber, Fan Maker and Master Mariner, David Aggett - a true tour de force, with over 800 characters in costume on it - one of which is PC215 Aggett in modern police uniform, but I couldn't find him. We concluded at All Hallows by the Tower - badly bombed, but nicely restored with a neo-gothic concrete roof c.1950 as there was a wood ration on. Despite the Luftwaffe's best efforts, some good things survived - a Norman archway; an amazing font cover by Grinling Gibbons and the crypt which has some Roman pavement, artefacts and some other very surprising material - Shackleton's crow's nest from his last expedition for instance! By this stage I was done in and the All Hallows cafe served us a good cup of builders and a generous slice of cake which, taken in the drafty shade outside was just the reviver one needed before tackling the District Line. Many, many thanks to the Plumbers for a terrific day, to Mike for being such a great guide, even if he is a Mercer, and, should any future Master be sitting on the fence, if the forgoing hasn't been enough to convince you to go next time, then nothing will!
Monday 11th July 2016
Despite being released for (fairly) good behaviour from the Tower, yet again I found myself tripping along to one of our most senior Courts - the scene of Dr. Crippen's conviction and hanging, No. 1 Court Old Bailey. Handily I was accompanied by the Clerk who vouch-safed my good conduct and we sat ourselves in the Jury Box for the AGM of this historic fund. Founded in 1808, the Sheriffs' and Recorder's Fund raises monies to be dispersed to prisoners who, upon release find themselves in a bad way and needing a helping hand. Many Livery's support this worthy cause and a good many Masters with a number of accompanying Clerks assembled to hear the proceedings. I was very pleased to see our Past Master and Sheriff Fiona Adler together with (soon to be) Mayor Elect and Hon Liveryman of our Company Andrew Parmley's fund-raising efforts had been recorded with a photo of their tandem bike ride last year. The formal reports concluded, a young offender who'd been quietly waiting his moment, stood and gave a moving account of just how he had benefitted from the Funds assistance - he'd been removed to a country location and made to get up early for long walks with a gang of others he came to respect and admire - I did wonder if this is the sort of thing National Service used to provide and where the Nation may have taken a bad turn by its removal, but kept that to myself! Once he'd sat to resounding applause, we had a talk from Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons who told us of the challenges ahead and staff shortages. When questions came, I asked if these shortages had been experienced to the same degree before the privatisation of prison staff had occurred - he conceded it a good question but that it was more about management style than staff.. It was then time to have a sandwich supper and glass of Frascati and catch up with the circuit of Masters and Clerks as best one could. It was all done by 20.15 and with light traffic I was home in good time.
Wednesday 29th June 2016
Having been on the run for the past two weeks, I finally turned myself in to the 'authorities' at Mansion House where I faced a Kangaroo Court under the dubious jurisdiction of an Alderman and Sherrif Rigdon. Prosecuted on charges which included the attempted drowning of my principal guest at the Installation Lunch, smuggling brandy on to H.Q.S. Wellington and coming a cropper in the Poulter Company Pancake Race (which was displayed to inglorious effect as Exhibit A), I was obliged to admit all and be banged to rights. Shackled to a ball and chain, we were escorted to a collection of modern 'Black Maria's' (or Uber cabs which are the same thing), we arrived at the Tower to the delight of tourists and I've no doubt confused families will enjoy those images all over the world for time immemorial. I was chastened to see our own Beadle, Mark Anderson who had many choice words to say on the matter of his Masters disgrace, but was understanding in the end and, with accompanying Pike Men, we were escorted through the grounds to the mess of Royal Fusiliers where our rations awaited. Luckily, one of our fellow miscreants was James Simpson, a Vintner, and (handily), Chairman of Pol Roger. James had managed to convert our water into magnums of the stuff and in Churchillian style, we quaffed it in lusty gulps from silver goblets - the refills were instant and we soon forgot our misery, tucking into an excellent steak and kidney pudding with new potatoes - not a bread roll in sight. After a dessert of sticky toffee and ginger pie with clotted cream, we were summoned, one by one, to be finger printed and photographed and present our bail. Thanks to our excellent Company, and despite a late revolt from the Chaplain, I was finally released back into the Community having raised a more-than-passable £1,355.00 (or a little over £1,600 with gift aid). I sat next to Mark Kimber (Coach Makers) and discovered he was also an auctioneer - with Nicholas Somers (Turner and PM Art Scholars) present, we had to take a snap of the three of us, so typical that three Auctioneers would end up in clink! Walking to the underground with Vivian Bairstow (Coopers) and Elizabeth Green (Framework Knitters), Vivian showed us the little-known but very moving memorial to the merchant seamen who lost their lives in WW1 - enough to sober the worst offender and with that it was home for a cup of tea and a rest.
Friday 24th June 2016
Lunch done, Ralph and I made short work of the brisk walk back to Guildhall Yard where the Combined Services were represented around an improvised parade square and which the Lord Mayor was addressing as we arrived. Despite placing ourselves as near to his right shoulder as we could, whatever he was saying was either intended for uniformed ears only, or they had much better hearing.. We got the gist of it and, and at a given signal, an RSM-type brought them all to attention, flags were raised and a marching band of the Grenadier Guards struck up a lively march and led the assembled personnel away. We noticed our own Chaplain, Canon David Parrott in attendance and I enclose a snap of him as he missed the Installation a week or two back. That all done, we broke up and went to find some tea....
Friday 24th June 2016
The elections done with (they weren't heavily contested!) we trooped off to our various allotted Halls for lunch. We were, as last year, at Stationer's, a Hall we know well as we also store our Company's treasures in its vault. They have a most agreeable courtyard and so I was able to enjoy a small cigar with some very welcome chilled white wine - the horrors of the previous day's floods but a distant memory. I was accompanied by our Senior Warden, Ralph Edmondson, and Liveryman Fran Morrison, but found plenty of friends already arrived, notably Past Master Framework Knitter Linda Smith who was part of a large contingent from that Company. Proceeding to to the dining Hall, the Master Stationer, Helen Esmonde, made an amusing welcoming speech in which she said that, despite Brexit, we're British and can make the best of any situation, a sentiment that was also shared in an excellent grace and applauded by the Room. A fine lunch of marinated salmon; duck; and tart with sorbet followed and was washed down with an excellent group of wines before the newly installed Master Cooper rose to thank the Stationers for their welcome and hospitality. Mindful of our Clerk's absent but watchful eye, Ralph and I then broke free and hot-footed back to Guildhall Yard for the Raising of the Flag...
Friday 24th June 2016
At 11 of the clock to Guildhall Yard where met Warden Edmondson and many Great People in gowns, chains and much other finery. Processed into the Great Hall with Masters Sawyer &. Burbidge with whom I sat near a raised Platform upon which were My Lord Mayor, his Sherriffs and Aldermen accompanied by their Mace Bearers etc. There were above three hundred attending and, upon questions by the Chief Commoner, we voted the next Year's Sherriffs to office, and so 'twas done and we left to lunch.
Tuesday 21st June 2016
Arriving on time in best starched bib and tucker, we joined the welcoming queue and met Master and Mistress Sawyer to whom I presented a large cigar (the Master being one of 'us' at heart), we were then met by our alloted host, the learned Prof. Grattan and ushered into the Fountain Courtyard for a glass of champagne amid a merry throng who'd already settled in. Spying an ashtray, I lit one of my AITS prize Davidoff's and found we were amongst chums from Ironbridge. Cmdr Angus Menzies (Clerk Master Mariners) hove into view and we found the time passed too quickly before the gong sounded for dinner. The magnificent (and huge) dining room is just off the Courtyard and is the only one in London maintaining a fine organ. Locating our seats in a capacity room of near 200 diners, the Master, his Principal Guest (A.E. Cook CBE) and Sheriffs both were played and clapped in as tradition dictates. We were thoroughly spoiled with four courses comprising lobster, soup, rump of lamb and pistachio parfait. As dessert was being laid, a waitress stood on a chair and called for silence: her colleague 'Bogit' had no friends to sing him 'happy birthday' and to win a bet she asked us too. Not smelling any rats, we all gamely sung for Bogit who emotionally said he'd now like to sing a response to the room! Joined by several other waiters, we enjoyed about twenty minutes of operatic lollipops by a talented group of students who'd been masquerading all evening - to the extent that 'Bogit' served the Mistress champagne. Admittedly, she was taken aback when he then asked if she was for "in" or "out"! They had us waving napkins in the air and danced with a couple of ladies too, it was all great fun. The wines were exceptional and I nobly managed to resist the petit fours (but little else..). We finished around 10.45 and fell into Threadneedle St. to find a cab and so home. Thank you to Company for looking after us all so well.
Thursday 16th June 2016
As I was booted, suited and badged to match, I had no hesitation is accepting Flavian's kind invitation issued after lunch at Drapers to the MM's Summer Reception. I just had time to return to the office, catch up, have tea, grab some cigars and ankle over to Temple. Arriving as requested just after 6pm, their Clerk Angus told me it wasn't starting until 6.30pm but to carry on as Mariners can't tell the time very well anyway - he being RN of course!. Up to the ever-familiar Quarter Deck I was well meet by a goodly crowd and was just chatting to Past Master Graham Pepper when I caught the unmistakable whiff of tobacco and there, at the stern, was IPM Jim Conybere enjoying what turned out to be one of my installation cigars, procured for him by a non-smoker. I immedately gave him an even larger one and we passed a very agreeable evening. Many intereresting characters including one lady who fell on my proffered pinch of snuff with an enthusiasm that surprised even me. As with all MM events, when the formal proceedings end, the informal ones continue in their well-stocked Ward Room. However, this time I had an even better offer as Flavian had invited me to join him and his delightful wife Yasmeen and another couple for a night cap in his personal sitting room. It was 11.45 before I stumbled into the drizzle and so home and to bed!
Thursday 16th June 2016
And so to the excessively delightful Draper's Hall for a luncheon kindly hosted by the Company and which was practically a full reunion for recent Ironbridge Veterans - a w/e that's already paying dividends as old chums could now interact knowing how different we looked the morning after the night before last Sunday! After a champage reception we dined in their spectacular Court Room, surely one of the finest in the City? Lunch done and speeches shortened to accomodate the football fans need to hear how England was faring against Wales (2:1 in Englands favour if you're interested), we parted company. As I was going, I bumped into the Master Mariner, Flavian Desouza who issued an on-the-spot invitation to the Master Mariners Summer Reception....
Wednesday 15th June 2016
This happy and worthy occasion is co-organised annually by Past Master Roger Merton - it always draws a crowd and, despite gloomy forecasts to the contrary, nearly always shines. The lunch always starts in the Harris Garden where liberal amounts of champagne is drunk and a selection of good tobacco smoked - mostly, but not exclusively, cigars. It was therefore most appropriate that our Livery not only put in an excellent turnout (perhaps fifteen in total?), but those who remembered to bring them sported our new smoking hat - very handy with the sun as it happens! I had to borrow Senior Warden Ralph Edmonson's for part of it, thank you Ralph. It was also very good to see Assistant David Lewis looking so well again. Approximately 230 attended this year and, as we were being guided to dine in the Thomas Lord Suite, I was introduced to the AITS Chairman Parish Patel, and Guest of Honour and speaker, the irrepressible Brian Conley. Once seated and the formalities observed, we enjoyed a fine lunch of braised ox cheek and then, after a short break, I presented the Livery Prize for the Retailer of the Year - Chris Aston of Manchester was winner in 2010 and his fine and well organised premises had done it again - well done Chris. My modest role aside, Brian Conley then took the floor and gave us what must have been at least 45 minutes of high-octane comedy - stand up, magic and plenty of songs - some with "assistance", it was very amusing, the right side of slightly naughty and I suspect there was a lot more where that came from! Next we had the raffle - every table had an envelope into which each diner placed £10 and was given sealed envelope containing a number - you may imagine my joy when a fine humidor with a selection of Davidoff cigars was picked with my number on it! I am enjoying a Petit Robusto as I type this - I hope Ralph is as lucky next year. The whole day raised in excess of £14,000 for the charity - well done Roger and team.
Monday 13th June 2016
Derek Harris is not only a fine Past Master of our Livery, but a Past Master at organising this extremely sociable day at his excellent local golf club, Tandridge (http://www.tandridgegolfclub.com/) - an oasis in the Surrey desert and a stones throw from London. Twenty of our finest/keenest golfers, including four ladies, arrived at 9am to compete for the Charles Rich Trophy and other prizes. One lady was obliged to retreat before the onset of a sharp downpour but the other hardy souls saw it through and the lucky ones completed the course before the next drenching arrived around 4 hours later. This was all well underway before the Mistress and I arrived at 12pm to be pressed with a G&T and, in my case a nice Cuban cigar. There were about ten of us non-players, so our convivial party was gradually enhanced as players arrived and dressed in blazers with Livery ties. Apart from golf, I was warned that this club was famed for its catering and the rumours did not lie: a magnificent spread awaited us - rare rib of beef, haunch of pork, tender leg of lamb etc. all with veggies to match, washed down with good claret and, if that wasn't enough the desserts were equally up to snuff.. the famous Tandridge Pudding nearly floored me and I couldn't touch the cheese.. Retreating to armchairs with coffee after lunch was over, I was delighted to present the prizes, too numerous to list here, save the overall Winner - and last years holder, Paul Taberer. The trophy was accompanied by a basket of wines and, as Pauls wife Sharon had also won a prize they returned home full loaded. It was getting on for half past four by this stage and so the main party broke up save a few souls who took advantage of the late afternoon sun to enjoy one more cigar overlooking the putting green. Thanks indeed to Derek for a lovely day and a word to non-players, it's worth coming along for the lunch alone next year but the golf is pretty goof too!
Sunday 12th June 2016
After breakfast there were separate Master/Mistress meetings held to determine the "name" of our year of Masters. The 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire seemed to predominate as a theme and, after some deliberation and laughter, we settled on "Phoenix"; this was communicated to the ladies who promptly named themselves the "Firebirds". That done, each year elected a chairperson to coordinate future socials and appoint a committee to assist. Our Chairman, Master Pewterer, Mark Chambers, will do a splendid job and was warmly congratulated! That all being settled, there was an informal arrangement to go back to the Coalbrookdale Museum site and inspect The Costume Project. In fact, I was keen to see the Broseley Pipeworks which our Livery had supported generously when it was set up. Having said our goodbyes and set off in a steady drizzle, we reached our goal only to find it was closed until 1pm!!! Not wishing to spend three hours on a wet Sunday loitering around a charming carpark, we broke cover and set coordinates for home which we gained a little after 5pm having diverted for lunch on the Thames.
Saturday 11th June 2016
Fri/Sat 10/11 June
Hardly had I got my installation chain of office off than the Mistress and I were packing our car for the now-famous Masters Weekend in Ironbridge. This is really supposed to be a last hurrah for all the Masters serving out their year, but so many Liveries have their dates at variant times of the year, it no longer matters and I was one of at least four installed in the previous week. Having settled in at the New Inn, Telford, our first social was a black tie dinner at the main museum in Ironbridge. It was as hot as it was fun but we enjoyed the welcoming speeches etc, and ate and drank well (as one does in Livery!). This year there was a near-record turn out of about 100 Masters, all accompanied by their relevant Consorts and were joined later by the Lord Mayor and his two Sherriffs. Back at the hotel (via coach), many of us cemented our friendships over a cooling pint or two. The main business began the next morning. The Livery sets a fine example of time keeping and, to a Master (and Mistress) we were on our coaches by 09.15 for an express tour of some of this World Heritage Site's ten locations. We kicked off at the Jackfield. tile factory - superb, and I managed, finally, to find one of a pipe in use..; Then a flying visit to the amazing Iron Bridge - where it rained, heavily, but we didn't rust. Next was the Old Furnace where Darby invented his new processes for smelting and so unwittingly kicked off the Industrial Revolution; (then a lunch break, v. good salads and wine - and just time for a cigar with Ben Burbidge, the Master Furniture Maker http://www.furnituremakers.org.uk/about/) and then off to Blists Hill, a working Victorian Town - I converted £10.00 into 2/- and 8d and went off to spend spend spend.. I bought two snuff hankies, a newspaper from 1895, some cards and half a pint of mild before trotting off back to the coach which next deposited us at the Coalport porcelain factory. Most interesting, a fine reference collection is maintained there but I must say finding an ice cream was also a treat. Back on the bus, we were back at the hotel for couple of hours much needed R&R and then back into black tie for the Presidents Summer Ball in the museum.. a champagne reception followed by a good "livery" dinner and speeches was followed by some dancing (well, of a sort!) before we rendevoused back at the hotel for a cold pint or two as a nightcap - and another cigar, naturally...
Wednesday 8th June 2016
And so a new chapter in our Livery's history begins. The Court meeting was concluded in almost record time - just under an hour. It was agreed that no one could recall just why guests and Liverymen who happened to be there in time weren't historically allowed to witness the installation of a new Master and so the doors were opened and our historic veil of secrecy lifted. The Installation Ceremony proceeded efficiently and correctly - thanks in no small part to our Clerks correct insistance on a pre-meeting rehearsal. Once installed I was very pleased to appoint an excellent team of Wardens - Ralph Edmondson (Senior); Roger Brookes (Renter); Andrew Golding (Third) and Adam Bennett (Fourth) - who, in the best tradition of the Livery, get on famously. With all in order, it was hot foot to the quarter deck for some photos, and then into the receiving line to greet our guests who all arrived in plenty of time for a glass of cold fizz. At lunch the Immediate Past Master, Chris Allen read a special Grace written by our Hon Chaplain, the Revd Canon David Parrott who through circumstances beyond his control wasn't able to attend. I loved it and am proud to record it here:
Praise God for food, and wine to drink,
And for our Master’s naval link.
Upon this ship we come to dine;
An antique venue, mighty fine.
Our Company has nought to fear
As Charles takes on the right to steer
A steady hand upon our tiller
Lord, bless the year of Master Miller
The lunch was deliciously catered by Mark Grove and his team at http://www.thecookandthebutler.co.uk/ and we cracked along at a goodly pace. Our guests were admirably introduced by Liveryman Fran Morrison and our principal Guest, Tim Wonnacott gave a generous and very humourous reply to which I responded initially by drenching poor Tim in a glass of water - he was very kind about it (sorry Tim!). I was very pleased to show off the newly found Livery Grant of Arms and Letters Patent which have been missing for many years - our Clerk tenaciously sought them out, and the new Immediate Past Master, Chris Allen, and his IPM, Mark Gower-Smith have funded a beautiful re-presentation and they are now resplendent in frames carved with tobacco leaves (or close too); Sandra also located a huge banner not seen since 1985 and Angus Menzies, Clerk to the MM's and never shy of a challenge saw to it that it was displayed on the Quarter Deck. Whilst all this was going on apparently biblical-style downpours were being had all over London - oblivious to all that drama we ended our lunch and trooped back to the quarter deck where Coffee, Cigars, and Cognac awaited us (I did mention that our Livery enjoyed dining on the High C's..) and which seemed to hit the mark - Jemma Freeman had kindly provided the torpedo cigars and had had them placed in souvenir tubes with our Crest emblazoned on it. Several of us also sported a limited edition Livery Smoking hat - originally conceived as a sort of shooting hat, it serves its purpose so well as a "team" hat, that of the twenty ordered, but one remained by the close of the day! Thank you to the Master Mariners for allowing us the use of the venue, to Tim for being a perfect Principal Guest, and for everyone attending and giving my year such a special start.