City Livery Halls Walk

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!