Tuesday 1st August 2017
The Learned Clerk and I attended the funeral of Albert Mayle, Beadle of our Company from 1996 to 2005. According to our records, when Bert joined the Company, he was Beadle to the Fan Makers and to the Ward of Walbrook. It is recorded in the Court Minutes that he had agreed to act as Beadle for a year and then stayed 9 years, retiring in 2005 when he would have been in his 70s. Bert had been an In-Pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea for the past two years, having served his time in the Fusiliers of the London Regiment. It was my first visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea and I am grateful to Alan Begs for giving me on a brief tour of a remarkable institution. Instigated by Charles II, the Royal Chelsea Hospital was built by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1692.
The Wren Chapel was packed with family, friends, Chelsea pensioners in their scarlet uniforms and representatives from the Fan Makers and the City. It was a fitting service for someone who had served his country in Egypt in the post war years and had a long and varied life. After the service, the funeral cortege exited through the main gates, to the lament of a piper, while pensioners and members of the congregation formed a guard of honour. We then retired to the RHC hostelry where we spent a pleasant hour or so with friends of Alan and Sandra enjoying a very agreeable Chelsea Pensioner IPA.
Wednesday 2nd August 2017
It would have been very difficult to turn down a day out in Windsor which included a visit to the Windsor & Eton Brewery followed by lunch at a speciality meat restaurant “Meat at The Parish”. The BBC weather forecast promised showers and it was spot on. A leisurely train journey of almost one hour took me from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside station, where I joined a small group of masters for the 5 minutes walk to the brewery. I would recommend the brewery tour to anyone interested in the alchemy of turning barley, hops and yeast into ale and the relatively recent proliferation of craft beers. I have done several brewery tours but this one was the best: informative and fascinating. Windsor & Eton produces a remarkable selection of ales with distinctive and different characteristics. Our guide handed out different types of barley and several types of hops as we enjoyed samples of the beers that derive their characters from the ingredients. Our starter was Knight of the Garter which was an excellent golden ale with a good hoppy bitter flavour with citrus after notes. Their Republika pilsner is a rare lager that can boast a flavour. For my palate, the highlight was Treason: a west coast IPA of the American variety. I have enjoyed many excellent American craft IPAs and it was a revelation to find one made in this country that will stand comparison with the best on the other side of the pond. Treason can be found in well stocked branches of Waitrose.
Master Management Consultant, Noorzaman Rashid, called for taxis to transport us across a wet Windsor to the restaurant. After 90 minutes in a brewery with numerous samples to consume, we were pleasantly lubricated as we sat down to a lunch of chateaubriand. The beef was exceptional. My table included the Masters World Trader, Brewer, Engineer, IPM Framework Knitter and Mistress World Trader. The talk was entertaining, convivial and engaging. Before I knew it, I was dashing for the 17:10 slow train back to Waterloo.
Many thanks to Noorzaman and his clerk, Julie. The organisation was faultless and the programme was inspired. A perfect way to start August. The Masters will now enjoy a month of downtime to recharge their batteries before it all kicks off again in September.
Wednesday 26th July 2017
The Brigantes were a collection of pre-Roman Conquest tribes based in the north of England. For some reason, Humberside was not counted as part of their territory. That’s a shame because that’s where I come from. The amalgamation of northern tribes took their name from the Celtic goddess Brigantia.
With a Lord Mayor of London from Blackpool, I thought I should support him and other northern liverymen by attending the third Brigantes Breakfast. The first two were held in York and Sheffield and next year’s will be held in Leeds. I also thought it would be rather nice to do some sightseeing in Liverpool. A former UK city of culture, Liverpool has had the benefit of significant investment and friends who have ventured there told me it was worth the visit.
We visited old friends in Nantwich on Monday night and drove through Cheshire the next day to emerge from the Mersey Tunnel into central Liverpool. We had booked two nights at the “Hard Day’s Night Hotel” in the “Cavern Quarter” of the City. As expected, the hotel was full of posters and memorabilia of the Fab Four and the muzak was exclusively Beatles. After a stroll around the gentrified Albert Dock on a lovely summer evening, we bought tickets for a showing of Dunkirk at the IMAX theatre. I couldn’t help thinking there was a connection between the scenes of the British Expeditionary Force awaiting evacuation and the lines of vehicles queuing for the Manx and Belfast ferries. The connection became clearer as we walked around the “Cavern Quarter” staying clear of men eyeballing each other and squaring up for a fight while others were bedding down in doorways for the night. We popped into the Cavern Club during a rendition of “Yellow Submarine”. We didn’t stay long.
It certainly rains in Liverpool. However, the deluge ceased as we made our way to the magnificent St Georges Hall. The northern cities have wonderful monuments to Victorian civic excess and St Georges Hall is probably the grandest of all. We enjoyed a reception on the northern side steps, overlooking the station. It was an opportunity to chat with other masters and consorts, many of whom had taken the train from Euston, arriving just before noon. Masters were invited to process into the Concert Hall with the Lord Mayor of London and principal guests. While the exterior is magnificent, the interior is breath-taking with a 25 metre high barrel vault ceiling supported by columns of red granite. Stained glass windows depict St George slaying the dragon at one end, while the other end shows Neptune and what I presume to be a liver bird of the feathered variety. Beneath that window is the most impressive organ, built in 1855 and subsequently modified and expanded. As we processed, the 420 diners clapped us in while the organ thundered.
During our meal, we were entertained by the organist, a trad jazz band and a George Formby impersonator singing about his little stick of Blackpool Rock. I had expected Andrew Parmley to have a go on the organ but he remained at ground level to respond to a toast on behalf of the guests.
It was a memorable day when the City of London livery movement moved north and “us northerners” celebrated our connections to the lands formerly known as Brigantia (except for the Mistress and me because Humberside did not count).
Thursday 20th July 2017
Two visits to St Paul’s this week and two visits to Mansion House. After lunch at Apothecaries’ Hall, it was back to the flat to change from my morning coat into a lounge suit for the stroll over to Mansion House to attend the fifth annual Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture. This year’s speaker was Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. Commissioner Dick took up the role in April and during her first three months she has appeared on the news responding to the terror attacks on Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Borough Market, and Finsbury Park, as well as the protests that have erupted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. One cannot fail to be impressed by her leadership, confidence, empathy and intelligence.
The Lord Mayor set the scene and Cressida Dick took control of a very full Egyptian Room by peering over the top of the lectern and disclosing that she was two inches too short to get into the City of London police force. Her speech focused on the threat of terrorism which encompasses most of the other security threats facing the City. She recounted how terrorist attacks had been frustrated during the 5 years following the 2007 attacks until the appalling murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013. During that period, there had been 340 arrests on terrorist charges. Since March, when the attack on Westminster Bridge took place, the tempo had changed with 17 weeks of carnage leaving many dead or injured, as a consequence of less sophisticated attacks perpetrated by people who appear to be inspired by social networking. The strategy to deal with the terrorism is based on “Pursue, Protect and Prevent" but the strategy must be constantly reviewed to address the changing nature of the threats. In the Pursuit of supects, the intelligence agencies: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ work together effectively, “often in the shadows”. The cost of Protecting the public was rising significantly but despite the threats and costs, no high-profile events in London have been cancelled. Prevention was probably the most difficult aspect of the strategy which requires a means of stopping people being radicalised. More individuals are being prevented from travelling to Syria but effective policing requires the consent and support of the public and community. She assured us that there would be further investment in local policing because communities are the most effective means of defeating terrorism and addressing radicalisation.
Commissioner Dick dealt with questions from the floor in an assured and confident manner. She acknowledged that some of the barriers installed to deter further attacks may be ugly and intrusive but they are necessary. The questions continued over wine and canapes in the Salon. I was a supporter of Cressida Dick before this evening and I left Mansion House believing that she is the most impressive leader of the police force in modern times.
Thursday 20th July 2017
For the Mistress and me, it was our second visit to the crypt of St Paul’s this week. In the café area, we met Master Shipwright (and fellow Pipe Maker) Archie Smith, his delightful wife, Miriam, and our Learned Clerk, Sandra. We were directed past the tomb of Lord Nelson and then the tomb of the Duke of Wellington to the Chapel of St Faith, also known as the Order of the British Empire Chapel. Off the Chapel of St Faith can be found the Knights’ Chapel, just a yard or two away from the tomb Sir Christopher Wren.
The Annual Service of Dedication to the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor begins with a procession of members of the clergy and knights of the Order carrying the sword, spurs and the Pennons of the Knight Principal and Knight President. The Order preserves the chivalry of the Knights Bachelor; a name derived from the Norman French word “battelier”, a battle knight. The knights wore brilliant scarlet robes and looked resplendent as they processed down the aisle to take their positions near the altar. The service included several hymns familiar from my school days and two astonishingly beautiful anthems sung by members of the St Paul’s choir. The Address given by the Dean of St Paul’s distinguished the chivalry of the modern Order from the public’s perception of knights derived from watching the last 6 seasons of Game of Thrones. The Dean qualified his address by admitting to having watched just a few clips from YouTube. From my point of view, the Dean had a pretty good grasp of all six seasons from those clips. The service concluded with the National Anthem and the knights and clergy processed out of the Chapel.
We followed the scarlet gowns down Ludgate Hill towards Apothecaries’ Hall where we were treated to a champagne reception and finger buffet. It was an opportunity to chat with other masters, consorts and clerks in a splendid setting. The first Apothecaries’ Hall was destroyed in the Great Fire and was rebuilt in 1672 and is one of the oldest surviving livery halls in the City.
Wednesday 19th July 2017
The Mistress and I were back at St Lawrence Jewry for the second time this afternoon to meet our Learned Clerk, Sandra. We left the annual churches walk to dash back to change out of our hiking gear and put on more formal wear. The occasion was the Annual Service of Celebration to commemorate the diamond jubilee of of the rebuilding of SLJ, following the destruction of the interior of the church on 29 December 1940. The event was overshadowed by David Parrott's illness earlier in the day, which resulted in his admission to hospital.
At precisely 5:30 pm, the packed congregation rose to their feet as the Lord Mayor and his Sheriff's processed into the church. We remembered David and Sue Parrott in our prayers which were led by the Venerable Rosemary Lain-Priestly, Archdeacon of the Two Cities. The choir and organist excelled as we were treated to performances of pieces composed by Bruckner, Fauré, Tallis and Widor. There was a "pre-announcement" of a fund-raising initiative to make the entrance to SLJ even more welcoming. Lessons were read by the Lord Mayor and the Master Girdler (who was also on our tour of the Wren churches earlier in the day).
After the blessing, the civic party processed out of the church, probably heading for a white tie dinner. The rest of us headed for a very pleasant reception at the Guildhall Art Gallery where I had the pleasure of meeting the new Master Actuary. I am no longer the new master on the block.
Wednesday 19th July 2017
This was the third annual churches walk and I would recommend my successors to snap up tickets as soon as they are made available. It is a perfect day out for masters and consorts, providing a guided tour of Wren's masterpieces. It is baffling to imagine how Sir Christopher Wren managed to rebuild 50 churches after the Great Fire destroyed 86 churches in the City. St Paul's would be a lifetime achievement but he could take credit for least 49 other masterpieces.
You can imagine a Billy Connelly gag along the lines of:
"How many churches have you built today, Chris?"
"Three this morning and two this afternoon."
"Only two in the afternoon?"
"Yeah, we got stuck in the Jamaica Inn over a quart of port and I mislaid the plans of St Brides somewhere between Walbrook and Gresham Street."
Many of the churches rebuilt by Wren were bombed in 1940 by the Luftwaffe. The rebuilding of those churches is another fascinating story.
From the beautifully proportioned church of St Stephen Walbrook to the ruined church of St Dunstan in the East, we explored gems which most people would pass without giving the building a second glance. Many churches have gardens or yards which provide an oasis in the bustling City. To raise desperately needed funds for maintenance, these churches provide excellent coffee bars that demonstrate that there is more to life than Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Cafe Nero.
Our guide was Past Master Mercer (2003), Mike Dudgeon, and he made sure that no Masters and Mistresses were lost as we crossed the City's busy streets and ensured there was sufficient personal time to explore the churches. Lunch was provided by Cook & Butler at St Lawrence Jewry, where we would return later in the afternoon. I was expecting to be greeted by fellow liveryman and Hon Chaplain David Parrott at SLJ. We heard that he had been taken ill earlier in the day ... read on ...
Tuesday 18th July 2017
The City Livery Club was founded in 1914 and its cardinal objective was to “bind together in one organisation Liverymen of the various Guilds by bonds of common interest in defence of all the citizens hold dear…in service to the ancient Corporation and in maintenance of the priceless City churches.” Little has changed since then and membership of the Club is representative of practically all the Livery Companies who still make up the bulk of the membership which numbers around 800. The Club is now located at Bell Wharf Lane on the River Thames where it shares the facilities of the Little Ship Club. I joined the Club two years ago and this was the first Civic Reception I have attended.
The Reception and Luncheon is held every year at Mansion House in honour of the principal resident, the Rt. Hon. Lord Mayor. It was a cosy affair hosted by the Club President Alderman John Garbutt and approximately 250 others in attendance. Morning coat and hats for the ladies was the order of the day. The Lord Mayor was accompanied by Sheriff Peter Estlin and Sheriff-elect Neil Redcliffe. It was a splendid occasion with a reception in the Salon before we were called into the cooler air-conditioned Egyptian Hall to eat. There were 12 Masters attending and our respective companies were announced by the President. The Mistress and I enjoyed the poulet starter, followed by stone bass and raspberry dessert. The food at Mansion House has certainly improved since my last dinner there. It bodes well for our Banquet in October. Don’t forget to get your bookings in soon!
The President proposed the loyal and civic toasts and presented the Root and Branch Award to Keith Lawrey, nominated by the Hackney Carriage Drivers, and a Lifetime Achievement Award to Mrs Penrose Halson, nominated by the Turners. The Lord Mayor responded with a highly energetic and amusing speech which reminded us all why London is the greatest city in the world for work, life and culture.
Wednesday 12th July 2017
The Worshipful Company of Carmen celebrated its 500th anniversary with the Cart Marking Ceremony in Guildhall Yard. The Corporation of the City of London has exercised its rights over carts and carriers since its inception. Carmen were licensed to use their carts in the City for deliveries and, more importantly, the removal of dung and other noxious waste before sewers were laid. Carts would branded with a mark each year to demonstrate that the terms of the licence had been met. Today, over 50 vehicles were brought into Guildhall Yard to be marked, including hand carts and bicycles; horse drawn coaches and trailers; vintage vehicles powered by steam, electricity, petrol and diesel to the very latest environmentally approved transport. Each vehicle would be greeted by the Master Carmen, the Lord Mayor, Master Glover and other dignitaries. The vehicles had wooden plaques to be branded with this year's logo, a "500" rather than a letter for each year. The Learned Clerk and I sat with other Masters and Clerks to watch the proceedings and offer a round of applause as each vehicle rolled up. I have to admit that I became rather uncomfortable when the hot branding iron came towards a wooden plaque affixed to the diesel fuel tank of a lorry. It was a fascinating 3 hours and we were rewarded with some extraordinary sights, including Field Marshall Montgomery's Silver Wraith, Corporal Jones's butcher's lorry from Dad's Army and a charabanc.
After the ceremony, we entered Guildhall Library for a glass of fizz before sitting down with 670 others for a very generous luncheon in the Great Hall. I had the pleasure of sitting between Master Fan Maker and Master Glass Seller. Conversation was very convivial and my snuff box did the rounds. Master Carmen, Marsha Rae Ratcliff (who has recently been honoured with an OBE for her services to charity), gave a delightful speech with a toast to the Corporation of London. The Lord Mayor provided a very witty response which produced loud laughter from the assembled diners. I was very privileged to be part of a great event and would recommend fellow liverymen and freemen to watch the ceremony next year.
Monday 10th July 2017
Our Benevolent Fund has supported the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund for many years. The current level of annual contribution is £5,000 which compares favourably with the total donations of £139,236 received by the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund. Many livery companies support this worthwhile charity and were represented by their respective masters and clerks. Our Learned Clerk, Sandra, accompanied me and Liveryman Jenny Merton was also there, in her own capacity as a supporter of the Fund.
In the splendour of Court No 1, Lady Brewer brought the meeting to order and we ran through the Agenda approving minutes, accounts and officers for the ensuing year. What made this event well worth attending were the contributions from a beneficiary of the fund, two Brixton prison officers and the Governor of HMP Isis.
Keaton’s candid account of how he progressed from dealing on the streets at the age of 13, to becoming a resident of HMP Isis and being accepted on to a programme to prepare him for release was very moving. There is no better way to illustrate the importance of the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund’s work of improving ex-offenders’ chances of rehabilitation than to listen to a first-hand account of what can be done. Keaton was articulate, engaging, witty and very bright. I hope he makes a success of his new life. The two addresses from Laura and Sharon, prison officers working at HMP Brixton brought home the pressures and stresses of today’s prison environment, particularly in the older Victorian prisons built at a time when rehabilitation was not an objective of the penal system. Finally, Emily Thomas, Governor of HMP Isis, gave an account of how her expectations of the justice system has moved from the pessimistic to the optimistic. In her view, some fundamental issues are now being recognised and addressed. Ms Thomas is an outstanding speaker and covered many issues from how to set up a recruitment campaign for a new prison named Isis (which opened just before ISIS began to dominate global news) to the opening of the Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton. After the meeting closed, we adjourned to the Judges’ Dining Room for sparkling wine, sandwiches and chats with other masters and clerks.
Friday 7th July 2017
Our Livery, together with Past Master Mark Gower-Smith, was a subscriber to Richard Goddard's scholarly book entitled "The Heraldry of the Livery Companies of the City of London since 1954". The work is subtitled as "Being a SUPPLEMENT to the Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London". The book is of interest to anyone who wishes to delve into the traditions and pageantry of the City and, in particular, the coat of arms of their own livery company. The reception gave me the opportunity to visit another Livery Hall. Tucked down St Mary at Hill, Watermen's Hall would be easy to miss and that would be shame. The Hall is generously endowed with many artefacts, including a splendid model of a man of war, thought to be the subject of Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire". Richard Goddard was happy to chat about his work and signed our copy. Over refreshments, there was an opportunity to chat to others. The success of the previous day's Beerfest seemed to weigh upon the minds of some.
Thursday 6th July 2017
Beerfests can be great fun, provided the beer, the organisation and company is good. The City of London puts on some of the best events in the country; our Learned Clerk was there with Elise and Will Rasmussen and Alan Begg and some of England’s best craft breweries were offering their products while the Worshipful Company of Brewers was in charge. The City Beerfest was, indeed, great fun.
The Beerfest opened at lunch time but I arrived on a hot humid afternoon at 3pm to be greeted by our Chaplain, David Parrott. The event was taking place in David’s yard. There was a slight Womad feel to David’s Yard with an excellent new band, Nerja, playing a fusion of jazz, South African township music and Latin themes. £15 gets you a commemorative half pint glass and four beer tokens. The Yard had 15 beer stalls set up by a range of breweries. Beer was dispensed by a combination methods: cask tap, hand pump, bottles and, in some instances, by carbon dioxide through a chiller. My first stop was a half of Theakston’s Best Bitter, followed a little too swiftly by a half of Meantime’s tasty London Pale Ale. The conversation was convivial and eventually chairs were secured in the shade of the West Wing of Guildhall by SLJ. It was nice to meet up with a former colleague, Rob Burton, who had been brought along by Elise.
Towards 5pm when office workers descended on David’s Yard, the queues for the stalls grew and it wasn’t long before the first stall ran out. The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor arrived with a brace of Sheriffs soon after 5:30pm. I was now on my second set of beer tokens, having made friends with the delightful folk from Hepworth & Co based in Horsham. Their range of gluten free organic ales made the whole experience feel like a trip to a health farm. The Lord Mayor urged us to drink more beer and buy more raffle tickets in favour of his charities. As the temperature and humidity rose, the Lord Mayor and his Sheriffs posed patiently in their heavy woollen red robes as folk took selfies and posted to social media.
Signs of a sufficiency of ale can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. The purchase of a large sausage and sage roll was a reminder to me that it might be time to head home. Hepworth’s had run out of ale but they let me have their last half pint out of their last barrel for free. More stalls had closed and the queues for the remaining stalls got longer. It was almost 7pm and I think I had had the best of the day. I returned to the Barbican to digest my sausage roll. Cheers!
Tuesday 27th June 2017
The Mistress and I were invited by Assistant Elise Rasmussen to the Freedom Dinner organised by Forest at Boisdale in Canary Wharf. Forest is the voice and friend of the smoker and a useful pressure group to broaden the debate on how tobacco should be regulated. The record heat wave that had been the feature of the previous week had expired in favour of a very wet cold front. Cocktails were handed to us as we joined the party on the smoking balcony at Boisdale. After 20 years in the industry, it wasn’t long before we met some old friends and did some catching up. The Freedom Dinner is an annual event which marks the introduction of the indoor smoking ban exactly 10 years ago. After a refill or two, we took our seats on the top table, opposite the engaging Forest director, Simon Clark and next to Fran Morrison. It was a lively discussion during the meal and the common thread was freedom of speech, thought and trade. The guest speaker, by popular demand from the previous year, was Rod Liddle. Anyone who has read Rod Liddle in The Spectator and The Sunday Times would have a good idea of what to expect. We were not disappointed. Rod Liddle was hilarious, profound, outrageous but never dull. At one point, Rod was using a Sooty glove puppet to illustrate a point. How he got to Sooty, I can't remember but it was very funny. The proceedings moved on to the presentation of the 2017 Voices of Freedom Awards and I am delighted to report that Elise Rasmussen was a recipient of one of the four awards presented. After dinner, we retired to the smoking balcony where I enjoyed a Cohiba Siglo II and the remainder of my glass of wine.
Monday 26th June 2017
After the demands of electing and processing, I met the Mistress (who had attended a Consorts' Coffee Morning at Guildhall) and we made our way to Stationers' Hall. We gathered in the garden for drinks and were delighted to be addressed by both Sheriffs-elect and their delightful consorts. A dozen or so Livery Companies meet for lunch at Stationers' Hall after elections and today's party of Pipe Makers included Past Master Mark Gower-Smith, the Consort's Consort David Moss, Fran Morrison and Paul Woodley. It was a jolly affair and we shared a table with the Marketors.
Monday 26th June 2017
The Mistress and I arrived at Guildhall to meet the Beadle who had brought my gown from storage beneath Stationers’ Hall. It was my first opportunity to wear the Master's gown and chain since my Installation. Dressing up is an important part of the pageantry of the City. A hundred or so Masters gathered at holding stations before being led up in procession into the Great Hall to take our places below the stand reserved for the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Aldermen and a cast of many more. After the Lord Mayor had taken his place, there followed a minute’s silence for the victims of the tragic events in London and Manchester. It was time for the election which followed an 800 years old democratic process. Two sheriffs were to be elected and two candidates were named: Timothy Russell Hailes and Neil Graham Morgan Redcliffe. Hands were raised in favour of each candidate, the two current Sheriffs counted the votes and, after a lengthy consultation, confirmed both candidates had been duly elected. A perfect example of a refined democratic process. The successful candidates addressed Common Hall and Sheriff-elect Tim Hailes announced our Past Master Fiona Adler would be his "wingman" or Consort for the year. The Lord Mayor led the procession out the Great Hall and we were soon in the bright sunshine in Guildhall Yard.
Sunday 25th June 2017
It is always a privilege to attend an event at St Paul’s and the Mistress and I were keen accept an invitation to the Order of St John service. We met our Learned Clerk, Sandra Stocker, and made our way to St Paul’s. As we got within a few hundred metres of the West Door, it appeared that our Learned Clerk was a celebrity and was well known to almost everyone in the on the steps of the Cathedral. Sandra is a superstar and being one of her party was an immediate introduction to the great and good of the City. Swooping upon us, wearing the most elegant of black gowns of the Order, Past Master Mark Gower-Smith placed us in excellent seats under the Dome. There followed a complex pageant as banners and important persons moved around the Cathedral with perfect choreography. Our Learned Clerk was happy with the service and the Mistress and I were humbled by being a part of such a wonderful experience. Outside, many more people wanted to say hello to Sandra; we were introduced to several more important persons in the Order; The Lord Mayor and his entourage paraded while the band played on in Paternoster Square. A special day.
Thursday 22nd June 2017
Armed Forces Day is Saturday, 24 June, but the City of London kicked it all off with the annual Armed Forces Flag Raising two days early. A large audience had gathered when I arrived in Guildhall Yard. To the right a Guards band struck up with a march; to the left veterans with their colours stood at attention, ahead a company presented arms and, in the centre, The Lord Mayor, his Sheriffs, top brass representing all the services and our Honorary Chaplain gathered around the podium. The Armed Forces flag was raised over Guildhall; Canon David Parrott said a prayer; The Lord Mayor gave a speech pledging the City's support for the Armed Forces and a senior member of the top brass encouraged millennials to apply online to join the forces. The Lord Mayor then inspected the guard, the band struck up again and a Chinook did a fly past. The event was very well attended by Masters from many livery companies who took advantage of tea and coffee served in Guildhall.
Tuesday 20th June 2017
After the Jailed & Bailed escapade, I didn’t think the City could get any hotter but I was wrong. The BBC weather lady foretold rising temperatures to challenge the summer of ‘76. I stood in front of a Dyson fan while I pulled my white tie into shape, desperate to avoid overheating before we left for Stationers’ Hall. Although it is a mere 15 minutes walk to Stationers’ Hall, the Mistress and I hailed an air conditioned black cab and arrived reasonably cool, calm and collected. We gathered for champagne in the garden before being called to dinner in the Livery Hall. It was a splendid menu accompanied by excellent wines. Master Scientific Instrument Maker, John Caunt, presided over a top table that included Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf, Alderman Sir David Wootton and Sir Roger Bannister. As the sun descended, the magnificent stained glass windows became brightly illuminated and the temperature in the hall rose. The combination of delicious food, generously topped glasses of wine and close to two hundred diners meant the heat in the room was becoming an issue; there was much wafting of menu cards. Thankfully, Master Scientific Instrument Maker is an enlightened Master and he give the gentlemen in the room permission to remove their jackets. What relief! On to the toasts. The Senior Warden, Professor Ron Summers proposed the toast to the guests and commented on my northern roots and support for a Manchester football club. The reply came from Dame Fiona Woolf who talked about how her grandchildren enjoyed visits to the Science Museum.
It was a very memorable evening and the Mistress and I are very grateful to the Master Scientific Instrument Maker for having had the invitation to be part of such a magnificent banquet. After we got back to the flat, we sat on the balcony sipping iced water. It was still uncomfortably hot. The BBC weather lady said it would be even warmer tomorrow.
Monday 19th June 2017
After the heat of the Trooping of the Colour, it was difficult to believe it could get any hotter in the City. The BBC weather lady was warning of 33c, possibly warmer. My fruit-based smart phone threatened 34c. I strolled towards Stationers’ Hall, as the temperature rose, to collect my rather heavy Masters’ gown. In fact, the basement storage room at Stationers’ Hall was one of the cooler places in the City. Dressed in gowns, we assembled at the Old Bailey to be arrested and subsequently led into one of the smaller airtight Court rooms. Dressed in our gowns and finery, the charges were read out by a fearsome Sheriff Alderman Peter Estlin (in full judicial robes and wig). While the charges were read out, we wilted in the heat and shame of it all. My charges were based on my Icelandic ancestry and the rather unsavoury antics of my forebears; the Rule of Law had been abandoned. As one of the great jurists of the 20th century (Tony Hancock) implored: “Magna Carta, did she die in vain?” After mugshots were taken, we were marched on to an ancient Routemaster, destined for the Tower of London. At the Tower, we were led through crowds of tourists who snapped their Canons and Nikons in our general direction. As the sun beat down on us and the robes weighed heavy on our shoulders, we arrived in the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. At this point, our plight improved. Pol Roger was served in silver goblets followed by a tasty chicken lunch. Then the judicial process took a distinctly US turn. Our crimes could be plea bargained by a bail bond paid to the British Red Cross. Our gaolers sought a minimum bail of £1,000. Through the generosity of my Livery brethren, I managed £2,000 plus Gift Aid. After finger printing and more mugshots, I was released into the early afternoon sun. Dashing towards the West Gate of the Tower, I photobombed several Japanese selfies and occupied many megabites of SD cards. During a week when the British Red Cross was helping the victims of the London Bridge atrocity and taking control of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it was a privilege to do something for such a worthwhile charity.
Saturday 17th June 2017
Not strictly a livery event but certainly a highlight of the year, the privilege of attending the Trooping of the Colour was a memorable experience. The Learned Clerk had offered the Mistress and me a pair excellent seats overlooking Horseguards Parade.
Over 1400 officers and men are on parade, together with two hundred horses; over four hundred musicians from ten bands and corps of drums march and play as one. This year was the turn of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards to troop their colour. The BBC weather lady said it would be hot and, as we were processed through very tight security, spectators looked for shade to rest before taking their seats in the stands. We were advised to dress formally but I chose a dark blue suit instead of my morning coat. A wise choice. Many years ago, I had hired a morning coat from Moss Bros for a wedding and the coat produced the aroma of the previous incumbent who had probably expired on the Epsom Downs during Derby Day.
Despite the heat, the choreography of the parade was perfect and the music was outstanding. It would not have been easy for the leading members of the Royal Family who were participating in the relentless sun. A highlight of the event was the gun carriages being pulled across the parade ground at a canter, kicking up dust in the sweltering heat. See the photo. While Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh made their way back to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, a fleet of street cleaning vehicles followed, collecting fresh manure for HM’s rose garden. Behind the cleaning vehicles, a cavalry of mounted police swiftly undid the work of the street cleaners while keeping the ensuing crowds a safe distance behind as they tiptoed through fresh manure in high heels and Church’s. I never thought I would find myself in this situation but I was cheering in front of the Royal balcony while snapping shots of the flypast.
A wonderful day out. Thank you, Sandra.
Thursday 15th June 2017
Drapers' Hall must be one of the most beautiful livery halls in the City. We enjoyed an excellent dinner there earlier in the year. Not only is it the prettiest, it is also one of the biggest halls with many function rooms illuminated by gold leaf and adorned by beautiful works of art. Arriving just a few minutes after 12:30, I donned my badge and joined a group of guests in the garden, adjacent to Throgmorton Avenue. Having met many masters a few days earlier at Ironbridge, I was soon chatting enthusiastically while glasses of Louis Roederer were being topped up. We were called to lunch and I found myself sitting opposite to Past Master Sir Peter Bottomley MP. A starter of pressed Looms Wood duck was accompanied by a white Nuits Saint Georges, Domaine de L'Arlot, La Gerbotte, 2010. The main course of Hay baked beef was enhanced by Leoville Barton, 2004 and the dessert of buttermilk and lavender pie was lubricated by a glass of Domaine de l'Alliance 2011. Toasts were assisted by Dow's '97.
The hospitality was generous and the company was great fun. Master William Charnley invited us to view a gallery of exhibits put on show for a visit to the hall by HM The Queen two weeks earlier. The exhibition included ancient charters granted to the Company, including a photograph of a young Princess Elizabeth being installed a freeman of the Company.
The afternoon was rounded off with a very pleasant chat with the Master Shipwright over a cleansing ale in King's Arms Yard.
Monday 12th June 2017
Back home late Sunday afternoon from Ironbridge and it was back in the car on Monday morning for a drive along the M25 to Tandridge Golf Club. It was our annual Livery Golf Day organised by Past Master Derek Harris. “Remember, don’t have breakfast!” was Derek’s advice. Each year, our Livery’s golfers and guests tackle the Tandridge course to compete for the Charles Rich Trophy and many generous prizes in baskets that clink on the way to the boot of the car. Sponsored by British American Tobacco, the tournament is organised and run by Derek. He counts them out and counts them back in again. Tandridge is a very pretty course and deserves better than the likes of me hacking my way round. Poor technique and accumulated injuries gave me the excuse to sit in the clubhouse chatting to Derek and Sheila. We meet at Court and dinners but we often miss the opportunity to sit together and get to know one another. To spend time with Derek is a privilege I enjoyed immensely. Before long, the first threesome chip onto the 18th hole. Eventually, when everyone had changed, we settled down in the dining room. It was an enormous and truly satisfying lunch and it was quite obvious why Tandridge has such a reputation for its fine food.
Back to the business end of the day, Derek had taken the score cards and carefully recorded the numbers onto his spreadsheet before announcing for the second year running, Paul and Sharon Taberer, had both won the Men’s and Ladies’ first prizes. I was delighted to present the Charles Rich Trophy to Paul (a third-time winner) and baskets of wines to several of the other players. The Mistress and I struggled into High Single Figures EPS (the name of my car) but before long, we were back on the M25 heading for home weighed down by the famous Tandridge Pudding.
Wednesday 14th June 2017
Davy's at Woolgate Bar and Brasserie in Basinghall Street is one of the City's many oases. The crowds chatting and drinking enthusiastically in the early evening sunshine made it difficult to locate Court Assistant Tony Scanlan. Tony was busily defending his patch of several square metres where the Smoking Club was to meet. As Liverymen and guests arrived, cigars were lit, together with a couple of pipes. Smoking caps were proudly worn and a jolly evening was enjoyed by all.
Tuesday 13th June 2017
Sunday morning, after too little sleep, we broke away from the Andrew Marr show for another election. A 09:30 meeting to choose a chairman of this year’s Masters’ Association. The sole candidate scraped in unanimously with most in attendance looking at their shoes when there was a plea for volunteers. Another vote to choose a name with the “Prime Masters” beating “Mary Poppins” by a lot to one. 2017 is a prime number so the “Prime Masters” adopted the motto “Cannot be divided”. Back to the room to pack up and to watch Jeremy Corbyn trying to persuade the nation that he won (even though he lacked the seats to call a tea party in the Commons). City of London democracy is so civilised compared to the rest.
Back to Coalbrookdale and an opportunity to join a behind the scenes tour of the Darby houses and see the Costume Project. After lunch, we headed for Broseley to the Pipe Museum. This is a little gem tucked away from the most visited sights. We parked in the yard where Abraham Darby the first lay. We later discovered that our car was actually over his plot and I was reminded of Richard III’s resting place under a municipal carpark in Leicester.
The Pipe Museum is rather dilapidated and is much the same as it was when they downed tools in a hurry in the 1950s. “A time capsule” they call it. A charming curator, Tracey, took a group of five on a 45 minutes tour which was informative and fun. Unfortunately, health and safety does not allow the public unsupervised access to the factory. There are a large number of our Company’s antique prints on view with hundreds of clay pipes. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to see the museum and hope that many more members of the public make the effort. In the meantime, I have added a YouTube link to a video that is shown at the Museum.
Tuesday 13th June 2017
The orderly transition of power from one administration to another is a key feature of a strong and stable government. It is no different for the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders except that power rightfully sits with our wonderful Learned Clerk, Sandra Stocker. The Master is given the gavel and our equivalent to the codes to the nuclear weapons (the password to the content management system of the Master’s Blog page of www.tobaccolivery.org).
My Master's Year started 24 hours before my Installation at the Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists' lunch held this year in the Long Room at Lords. It was a great occasion. I had the opportunity to participate in a game of Pointless with Alexander Armstrong and present our Livery’s prize to the Tobacconist of the Year. This year it went to James Barber of Otley. Just check out his website to see why he was a worthy winner http://www.smoke.co.uk More importantly, £13,500 was raised for our Welfare Fund. Well done, Roger Merton for organising the event.
Less than 48 hours after my Installation we packed the car with my dinner suit, the Mistress’s posh frocks, our badges and other paraphernalia and headed north west on the M40 towards Shropshire. It was the 34th annual gathering of Masters, Mistresses, Prime Wardens and Consorts at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Livery Weekend. When the car was unpacked at the Telford Holiday Inn, we gathered to be bussed to Coalbrookdale for a black tie dinner (badges to be worn). Over a glass of champagne, I confirmed that I was the most recently installed Master. The Master Security Professional, Air Commodore Stephen Anderton had been installed at midday two days earlier while my installation was a 6pm event. Master Shipwright Archie Smith (and fellow Pipe Maker) took me under his wing and introduced me to many of the Masters before we sat down to dinner. After a very good pork dinner and plentiful supply of wine, we were bussed back to the bar at the Holiday Inn for a cleansing lager.
As it was the 34th annual gathering, the process of getting some 200 folk around the various museums was down to a fine art. Our coach only suffered two losses in Blists Hill which seemed perfectly acceptable. One could understand why a Master and Consort found the Victorian village so fascinating that they chose not to board the coach to return to Telford. It was our first visit to the Ironbridge World Heritage Site and, at the first sight of Abraham Darby’s iron bridge, the Mistress and I agreed that we must return soon. For us, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution brought back memories of our O Level history exams.
After an opportunity to watch the F1 qualifying back at the Holiday Inn, catch up on the latest news of the Coalition of Chaos and put on our formal clothes (badges to be worn), we were back on the coach to Coalbrookdale. Champagne awaited us in the Enginuity exhibition, where we played with exhibits and enjoyed each other’s company before being called into a steak dinner. We were entertained by the Lord and Lady Mayoress and both Sheriffs. The Lord Mayor delivered an address so full of energy, humour and wit, it was a welcome respite from the anxious discussions about why we had to have a general election in the first place and the parlour game of naming a DUP member of Parliament. After the Mistress and I assisted the Master Shipwright and his Mistress in building an arch in the Enginuity hall, it was back to the Holiday Inn bar and a couple of night caps.
Wednesday 7th June 2017
As my predecessor wrote, in his final blog, the cycle of the Livery Movement stops for no man. The democratic processes which have evolved over centuries in the City of London have been refined to the point where there are very few surprises. I was elected in March with a unanimous vote; not a complete shock as I was the only candidate. One waits in anticipation until the Installation Court when a carefully choreographed procedure sees the retiring Master relieved of his seat and the new incumbent put in place with the power of the gavel. This was a complete contrast to the events that followed two days later when Mrs May retained her seat at the Cabinet table but with very little else, including her dignity. More oaths were sworn; the new Mistress had her badge pinned (very carefully) on her dress; the new Court was blessed and it was off for photographs and the meet and greet line for the guests to the “2017 Post Installation / Pre-Election Dinner”.
I chose Skinners’ Hall because it is such a delightful building with outdoor areas that provide a perfect space for a cigar during the evening. Party Ingredients produced a splendid meal and the choice of wines appeared to be well received. Service was outstanding but I soon realised that service is always pretty good when one is seated at the centre of the top table. The dinner was attended by Masters from other companies, many of our Liverymen, their guests, my family members and old friends. Grace was said by our wonderful Honorary Chaplain, the Revd. Canon David Parrott who struggled at first but overcame the challenge of incorporating “Edmondson” into his famous rhyming couplets. What fun! Assistant Tony Scanlan introduced and toasted our guests and, in reply, Richard Burrows, Chairman of British American Tobacco, delivered an entertaining speech that covered the history of tobacco. Richard started with the Huron native American myth which recalled in ancient times, when the land was barren and the people were starving, the Great Spirit sent forth a woman to save humanity. As she travelled over the world, everywhere her right hand touched the soil, there grew potatoes. Everywhere her left hand touched the soil grew corn. And when the world was rich and fertile, she sat down and rested. When she arose, there grew tobacco. Producat terra. We also heard about developments in in the new generation of non-combustible products aimed at reducing risk to the consumer. Richard even gave an insight into the dark arts of investor relations; a life I left behind some 5 years ago.
It was a special pleasure to thank Immediate Past Master Charles Miller, and his Consort Camilla, for their outstanding year and present him with his Past Master's badge that had been previously presented to Alfred Dunhill in 1956 and Richard Dunhill in 1988. After an impressive musical interlude provided by the richly talented Guildhall Scholars: Ben Smith (piano) and Michael Vickers (baritone), we retired to the roof terrace for a stirrup cup of armagnac and a box of San Cristobal de la Habana El Principe. It was a quick tube ride back to the Barbican with my Mistress and memories of a splendid evening.