Hello again: it’s been some 12 weeks since the last blog and, despite everyone saying that it will quieten down for July and August, that’s not been the case, so plenty to ramble on about in this edition!
Shortly after writing the last blog, we departed for a weekend at Ironbridge with over 100 of the other Masters and their consorts. Unusually, we arrived in plenty of time: well, we had half-an-hour to change into dinner jackets and get on a coach for the first evening out. What followed over the weekend was a whistle-stop tour of a few of the sites that are part of the Ironbridge complex, plus two formal dinners, two lunches and a fair bit of late-night drinking in the hotel bar. The Ironbridge complex is fascinating and so interesting; in fact we are taking the two young Lumsdens there for the October half term and, after seeing the state of the roadway on the bridge itself, have been discussing the opportunity for the Paviors to get involved with a World Heritage Site and improve the paving. It was a good way to meet up with other Masters (although many of them are in fact already now Past Masters, as the main time for change-over appears to be July and October) and get to know them and their partners. Both of the Sheriffs arrived and we had some good evenings with them and many others in the bar, making sure that the Paviors were properly represented!
A Court Committee meeting and dinner the following week felt like a bit of a holiday. Then, the next week I went to the Carpenters’ Academy in Stratford. The Mistress had already visited and, along with several other Masters who had been told what a fantastic experience this was, we asked the Master Carpenter to arrange a visit for us as well. It was amazing to see the work they do there in training carpenters, stonemasons, and developing general building skills. The dedication and commitment from the whole team was very evident and the standard of trades-people quite wonderful.
The next day I travelled all the way to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire for the evening at the invitation of the Commander of the airbase for a reception and flying display by the awesome Typhoon – those who know me well will see why I went all that way for an evening! Unfortunately the 29(R) team were away (training they said!), but it was good to meet other supporters of the Squadron and to visit the base more generally.
Friday brought the election of Sheriffs at Guildhall, with my arriving just in time to be robed and to process in to the Great Hall – always a fantastic feeling to represent our great Company in this way. Two Aldermanic Sheriffs where elected, which I understand is quite unusual. One of these was our own William Russell, so we have another great connection developing with the Sheriffs and Mayoralty. After the election, I was invited as the current Master to a picnic lunch with a dozen or so Past Masters at Temple Bar (a building that the Paviors assisted in renovating). It was a lovely event in a very special place. All was going well until our host, Past Master Tom Barton, announced that they would like me to tell them how the year was going and what plans I had. An hour or so later I was let off the hook – so beware all our Wardens, and prepare for future invites!
On the Tuesday evening of the next week, we held our first Alumni Reception at Charterhouse. This was very well-attended by scholars from the Arkwright and Budding Brunels programmes, and also by students we support at both Birmingham and Nottingham universities. The idea of the events is to foster a lasting relationship with the students and, hopefully, assist them in the progression through academia and into the workplace – whilst, of course, interesting them in further participation with the Paviors. It was a really enjoyable evening, with the students fully engaging with those Paviors attending, and one that I hope we can continue to hold on a regular basis. We plan to spread future invites further to graduates of our London Highways Academy of Excellence, Imperial College and the City and Guilds.
The next day was a very different event: I was ‘Jailed and Bailed’. For a charitable donation to the St John’s movement, any Master could be summoned and tried by Sheriffs Bowman and Rigden. Your Master was accused of ‘ignoring the public need to travel, whilst flying, boating and driving himself around without concern for the rest of the travelling public’ – adding, at the end, that it was typical of the Paviors! Following our trials at Mansion House, the convicted Masters were transported to the Tower of London for incarceration, preceded by a very good lunch where we could buy our way out of the jail sentence. Some thirty Masters attended and it was a very novel experience.
That same evening I met the Mistress and attended the Luncheon Club evening at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. We were entertained with for a meal and by watching a performance of On The Twentieth Century, magically performed by some very talented young people: stars of the future, I am sure. Support for the Guildhall School is highly recommended and a really good way to enjoy the arts whilst supporting young talent in the capital.
The week ended with the Mistress and myself meeting with Monty Halls for a pleasant lunch to discuss his speech at the forthcoming Court Dinner. Those who listened to his speech at the Dinner will I am sure agree that he is a most interesting man. The Mistress thoroughly enjoyed the lunch, and particularly the food at Langan’s.
Another full week started with a pleasant golf day with the Marketors Company, then a Court lunch as a guest of the Masons Company at Mercers’ Hall on the Tuesday, followed by an evening service for the Lord Mayor at St Stephen Wallbrook. I then made a visit with the Framework Knitters Company to the House of Lords with the Mistress, which included a lovely lunch on the terrace. This was followed by our own Court meeting and Dinner at Cutlers’ Hall on the Thursday, and a banquet with the Lightmongers Company at Mansion House on the Friday evening together with the Mistress. Another week in the life of a Paviors’ Master!
It was now mid-July and, for once, it was a quiet week on the functions’ front. I attended a very interesting AGM for the Sheriffs Fund, particularly as it was held in the No 1 Court at the Old Bailey, giving the meeting a very different feel and perhaps making you pay much more attention than you might do in a normal environment. Along with other Paviors, I participated in an evening walk to hear the history of the Great Fire of London, organized by my friend, the Master of the Architects. It was a fascinating evening and we all learnt a lot about what happened during the Fire. The relatively quiet week enabled me to catch up on administration and dealing with some Livery matters, something that keeps going no matter how busy you are. Meanwhile, the Mistress managed to get invited to two lunches with the Basket Makers and the Dyers companies.
An important event for me in the week beginning 12 July was our Charity Golf Day held at my club, Moor Park, on what proved to be one of the hottest days this year. A full set of 21 teams lined up for a shotgun start. The sun continued to shine and I roamed the course meeting all the teams and dispensing water to keep them going. Meanwhile, the Mistress and my daughter, together with Sue Illman, spent the day raising funds on the Par-Three Challenge. Moor Park proved to be a super venue for the event, and along with the dinner and charity auction, helped to raise around £25,000 over the course of the day. This was particularly pleasing for your Master; In fact, it was so good that we are returning there next year for Miles Ashley’s Golf Day.
The next day, the Mistress and I went on a City church walk, visiting many of the Wren churches built after the Great Fire. it was a long and hot day, but quite magical to see the inside of many of the wonderful churches within the City, but particularly to hear and understand the history connected with them. After a really busy two days, we were both glad to sit quietly and relax when we got home that evening. Finally that week, we attended a great event organized by the Liverymen’s Committee, and by Paul Lowe in particular. We met on Saturday morning for a private tour of the Globe Theatre. This was followed by a demonstration of sword-fighting and a lecture on ‘Dress of the Day’, where my 26 year-old daughter was dressed in clothes of the Elizabethan period (the photos will be used as blackmail in times to come!). With my theme of the ‘family’ and the quarter-centenary celebration of Shakespeare’s death, the event fitted the bill perfectly. It was a real pleasure to see the children enjoying time in connection with the Paviors. Well done to all involved – and let’s have some more please.
The final week of July saw a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in the open-air theatre in Regent’s Park. This show is very much part of my history – and what a performance it was, made all the more special by the venue itself. This was another event organized by the Liverymen’s Committee, and particular thanks go to Francine Vella: well done! Please keep the ideas coming, as these type of functions serve the Company well in mixing the members together and creating a much stronger bond between us all.
Friday’s event was described by the Clerk as ‘possibly the most foolhardy event that a Master has ever undertaken’: a tandem parachute free-fall jump from 13,000 feet! This was organized by our affiliate 3PWRR to raise money for their Benevolent Fund and held at Netheravon Airfield. I was looking forward to it, as were four other Paviors – and we were not to be disappointed. Lunch was superbly provided by the Senior Warden (or rather his wonderful and very patient wife Judy) and the jump itself was just amazing; in fact, so much so that my eldest son and I are going to sign up for a course to enable us to jump solo. But I’ve promised the Clerk I will wait until I hand over as Master next March. I do have a great video of the jump, if anyone wants to have a good laugh.
My final event was a day out with Cdr Toby Shaughnessy RN and the senior team of HMS Argyll down in Plymouth the following Tuesday. Having met Toby when we invited him to our ball in Dartmouth on my Jolly, we have kept in close contact and he invited me to join him and his team to view the on-going fit-out (a good opportunity here for us to help out here with assistance perhaps on some things that the Navy won’t pay for?) and to spend the rest of the day (and the night as it turned out) off site (this is a Naval term for ‘in a pub’). It was a great day and provided a perfect end the first half of my year.
Thinking back on the past five months, it has given me real pleasure to have been chosen to lead the Company for the year, and allowed to attend on your behalf the most amazing events. I know that the Mistress also feels the same. Together, we are looking forward to the resumption of our duties in September. We can now rest for a few weeks – apart from the family (yes, all seven of us) walking up and down Snowdon for our charities. We can then start planning for what is already looking like a very busy September and October.
I wish you all well, and look forward to seeing you all in the coming months.