Merchant Venturers' Spring Banquet

Friday 18th May 2018

Merchants' Hall, Bristol

The Learned Clerk, Mistress and I enjoyed a full English before venturing out into the Sheffield traffic looking once more for the M1. The cruise control was set to 70mph and we headed south towards Bristol. The drive was a similar distance to the journey from London to Sheffield and we arrived at the Gorge Hotel at around 2pm, in time for a light lunch with the spectacular Clifton Bridge as a backdrop. We stretched our legs by walking over Brunel's suspension bridge and back over Clifton Down.

We donned evening dress and clambered aboard a coach for a short drive to the elegant Merchants' Hall overlooking Clifton Down and a champagne reception. We were welcomed by the Master, Charles Griffiths, and were very well looked after by several members of the Society, including Sir David Wills.

We were called into the dining room for a delicious spring lamb dinner accompanied by some excellent wines. During my Master's year, there have been many highlights but the most special times are those when I met and saw some extraordinary people. This was one of those occasions; I was sat next to HM Lord Lieutenant of the County and City of Bristol, Mrs Peaches Golding OBE. Educated in the tobacco state of North Carolina, Mrs Golding is the first black female Lord Lieutenant to be appointed and she is one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

After the loyal toast, the Master proposed a toast to the guests and the response was given by the principal guest, Professor Malcom Johnson, the gerontologist expert on the Channel 4 series "Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds". We heard Professor Johnson's views on intergenerational friction and the issues arising from baby boomers living longer and stretching the human lifespan. The TV series examined how mixing the old with the young can benefit both segments of society and, surprisingly, was it was beaten to a BAFTA award by Love Island.

The Lord Lieutenant proposed a toast to the Society of Merchant Venturers. It was short, succinct and summarised Professor Johnson's speech in just a few sentences. As we raised our glasses for the toast, I was enchanted by Mrs Golding.

After we left the table, the Mistress and I was taken on a tour of the Hall by Anthony Brown before we joined the rest of the party deep into their stirrup cups. It really was a wonderful evening.