27 February 2016

I’m writing this on the morning of Saturday 27 February, just a few days before I am due to hand over my Master’s badge to our next Master, Ian. This will be the final blog of my year and, although I’m ready to hand over, I will miss writing them. They have become an integral part of my year as Master, and I’ve been really pleased to hear from so many of you that you’ve enjoyed reading them. I will of course miss even more representing you all at the wonderful occasions that I, often with the Mistress, have been privileged to attend.

At present I’m sat in Paviors’ House, having last night had a fabulous Friday evening, with the Mistress, as guests of the Worshipful Company of Masons at their Mansion House Banquet. While the format was familiar, with the singing of grace and the National Anthem, the loving cup ceremony, speeches from one of the Sheriffs, Christine Rigden (as the Lord Mayor is on business in Zambia), there were cadets rather than musketeers and pikemen doing the guard of honour, and a choir rather than a band and trumpets (I think the trumpets are better!). Regardless, every time we attend such events it still feels different, either because you get to meet people for the first time, or you meet people you already have met before, but in different surroundings. Whatever, it is it all still so enjoyable!

Caroline and I have again stayed overnight in one of the Charterhouse guest rooms. We really enjoy staying here and it has made being Master so much easier than an endless array of expensive hotel rooms or late night journeys. We have had a great breakfast in Smithfield, and are now enjoying a relaxed morning before heading off to watch the England v Ireland rugby game at Twickenham this afternoon. You will know the result by the time you read this, but right now I’m thinking what a great weekend I’m already half way through. To finish it off we’ve got our youngest of eight grandchildren Lilac’s first birthday party tomorrow, and lots of family congregating for that. Who could ask for more, eh?

I wrote my last blog before Christmas and our New Year break in Cape Verde. If you want is a winter break in the sun on a friendly island with great food and beaches, we would recommend it. I’ve added a photo just to give you a flavour – a lovely breeze makes it a kite-surfer’s paradise and reduces the impact of the sun’s boiling temperatures.

We came home on 7 January, and I quickly got back in the swing of Master’s invitations, with a Masons’ Lunch and a Plaisterers’ Dinner both on 12 January (my liver and waistline needed a break after those two great occasions on one day). On 14 January we had our annual Paviors’ Common Hall evening in the delightful Painter Stainers’ Hall. Highlights of the evening were the testimonies of two beneficiaries from our LHAE Bronze Pass scheme and some interesting points of view and great debates. These coupled with super catering made it another night I think the Company can be proud of.

On 19 January, Caroline hosted a Ladies event, which consisted of a tour of the Old Bailey and dinner at the Club Gascon restaurant near Smithfield. Caroline has been delighted with all the great feedback received from the 35 attendees. Those fifteen or so of us who were ordained to be chaperones or chauffeurs when the ladies finished their fun, decided to create some fun of our own by having a ‘Pie and Pint’ evening in a pub next door to the restaurant (photo attached). This was also a great success, and it has made me wonder whether we couldn’t announce a few other dates for further Pavior ‘Pie and Pint’ gatherings. Any feedback would be gratefully received.

Externally since then, I have represented the Paviors at a Constructors’ Livery Dinner at Haberdashers’ Hall, and a Constructors’ lecture on ‘sustainability’ at Westminster University, as well as the Masons’ event last night. Internally, I have been present at all of our usual committee meetings including, on 4 February, the last Court Committee meeting that I will chair as Master. This was held in the Alderman’s Court Room at Guildhall, and was followed by a fine lunch prior to a rehearsal for the Installation.

The other Pavior event that I helped with was the Annual Paviors’ Lecture on 9 February. This event was wonderfully organized again by Paviors Stephen Brown and William Kemp, and the staff of Imperial College. The lecture entitled ‘Can London Survive?’ was brilliantly delivered by our Renter Warden, Miles Ashley, and it really made a mark on all who listened to it. The following Q&A session completed the enjoyment by adding lots of comment. For the first time, Imperial had to organise an overflow room where the lecture was streamed to about 50 students who couldn’t get in to the packed lecture theatre. A dinner followed in the Rectors’ House dining room and was very satisfying. Prior to the lecture several of us were invited to tour Imperial College’s leading-edge Soil Stabilization Geotechnics Laboratory. For those of us who could understand at least the basics of what was being done there, the visit proved both illuminating and fascinating (photo attached).

As I’ve explained in a previous blog, every year the current Masters of all the livery companies form an association, and the one I belong to – the ‘Magna Masters’ – had its inaugural dinner with our ‘Carta Consorts’ in Stationers’ Hall on 2 February. It was a huge success with over 85 Companies represented. Caroline and I are looking forward to more events being organized by our year groups. There are already wine tours and musical weekends as well as lunches and dinners being mooted, so a Past Master doesn’t have to collapse back to a diary empty of City and livery-related events. Caroline and I will be taking two weeks’ holiday in La Manga, Spain, from next Saturday 5 March thanks to George Chapman and his gifted lot for the Paviors’ Charity Golf Day auction last July – I was the auctioneer, but still managed somehow to put in the winning bid. After that, in April, we have accepted an invitation to join many others from the City livery companies to spend a few days in Switzerland with the Zurich Guilds. Perhaps I will be permitted to blog you occasionally about some of the Paviors-related things that I encounter and participate in as one of your Past Masters? I fancy some of them won’t allow my liver to hibernate for a time yet.

Thank you all for all the support I’ve had over the last year. I have loved being your Master and have many super memories to keep me warm as I get older. I have one final comment for you all, and that is it to hope that all of you appreciate how much is done by our Clerk, John, not just to hold together this wonderful Company of ours, but to keep it moving forward. I will have one more chance at next Wednesday’s Installation Dinner to thank him publicly, but I’d like also to do so here for the benefit of those of you who can’t be with us next Wednesday. John – you have been brilliant at helping me through my year, and I and the Mistress will be forever grateful.