In the beautiful spring sunshine (with the odd snow shower), I am sitting here after our Spring Dinner at Fishmongers’ Hall to write my second blog to you all. I still can’t get used to the word ‘Blog’: it sounds like an insult.
After the chaos, but great fun, of the first few weeks, things started to quieten down towards Easter. I attended a Liverymen’s Committee meeting, at their request, and was pleased to see the enthusiasm from all of its members. This also provided me with a rare chance to talk to that Committee and outline the hopes and ambitions for my year. It seems that the Committee has quickly taken on board the challenges that I set, with various events already arranged and publicized (even over-subscribed), and plenty more to come. This is great work, so please keep at it.
As usual with the Liverymen’s Committee, the meeting was followed by a very pleasant Luncheon Club event, and an opportunity to meet up and renew acquaintances with many who attended. The new Chairman, Tom Barton, did as he promised and reduced the number of speeches, allowing us all to enjoy the lunch. He then spoiled it by asking me to say a few words, and I hope that I did just that!
Not to be outdone by my claims of being busy, the Mistress started her solo attendance at events the next day: she seems to have a busier calendar than me. She attended a tour of Middle Temple followed by lunch, and lovely it was too, I was informed. I think that the Lady Mistress has such a busy calendar that I will ask her to pen an occasional blog, as I am sure you would love to know what else goes on in the Master’s year behind the headlines.
My next important event after the Easter weekend was at Guildhall attending the ceremony where my son, Greg, was given the Freedom of the City. Most of the family attended and it was a very proud moment for me – and, yes, your Master got clobbered with the lunch bill afterwards.
I then attended for the first time The Big Curry Lunch, and this seemed to be a good event. However, the auction took place almost without announcement, so it was difficult to become involved. The event is perhaps a victim of its own success, being packed for both lunch sittings. Prince Harry arrived mid-way through and chatted to many people. I did notice that many livery companies made a special occasion of the event and attended in numbers. I do think it would be a more enjoyable event attended as a group, so perhaps this is something we should consider next year?
That same evening, the Mistress and I joined members of the Wine Circle to be treated to a fantastic evening of wine-tasting (I didn’t quite master the spitting-out thing!). The event was organized with military precision by John Cruse, and wine-writer Neil Courtier gave us a fascinating explanation of the art of tasting. In addition to the tasting wines supplied by Neil, we sampled four wines from our own cellar, and all of them found full acceptance with both myself and the Mistress. In particular, I loved a special bottle of an Australian brew that was reserved for just me to taste.
The next day I was invited to an awards ceremony by the Architects Company and duly arrived at the Cheese Grater building in Leadenhall, meeting a dozen other Masters and many individuals I knew from the property and construction industry. The Lord Mayor and both Sheriffs arrived to award the building owners and developers with the Building of the Year Award. From what I saw, the Award was richly deserved, although other engagements meant that I had to decline an offer for a tour: that is something that I will certainly try and arrange when I can.
This was followed by a quiet week with a couple of Paviors’ committee meetings, but no other commitments. This gave us time to start the final arrangements for our forthcoming Jolly to Dartmouth. We have really enjoyed arranging this trip for members of the Court in an area of the country where we have spent considerable time. We are looking forward to welcoming around 40 guests on the three-day visit in May.
The following week, the Mistress and I attended an amazing concert at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in a new venue they have built in Silk Street. This is a wonderful recital hall, with wood panelling somewhat reminiscent of Carpenters’ Hall, and was built to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Tylers and Bricklayers Company. We were then honoured to hear musical talent of quite a stunning standard and, after the concert, to catch up with many of our new livery contacts at a reception.
The following evening, we were both invited to the Apothecaries’ Hall to attend their Guests’ Night dinner. The Hall, although being too small to host one of our dinners, is quite enchanting at night, and we had a really enjoyable evening getting to know their Master and his family, plus a Countess and an Earl who were also guests. It is nice for me to report that, as the most senior-ranked Master present, the Mistress was sat next to the Apothecaries’ Master. It was again really interesting to see the differences of approach in the way that dinners take place in the various liveries: so far, I think we get a really nice balance at our dinners.
In the week of our own Spring Dinner, I was a guest of the Engineers Company at their installation meeting held this year at Grocers’ Hall. This was a first-visit for me, and what a lovely place it proved to be. It was again a really busy evening, meeting more new Masters for the first time, and again enjoying the hospitality of another livery company in a really warm and inviting hall.
Thursday 28 April was our own livery dinner. I had, some years earlier (I think in 1999), been to Fishmongers’ Hall, and loved it so much that I remember thinking that if I ever became Master we would come here. Now, here I was as Master, attending a dinner at Fishmongers’, with the hall packed to capacity. I had a great time. The evening started with a busy Admissions Court, with two new Assistants and an Honorary Assistant sworn in, plus six new liverymen admitted. We then rushed up the stairs to start welcoming all the guests. The Hall did us proud and looked wonderful. The atmosphere when we processed into the dining hall was just fantastic and, let me tell you, when you stand up to speak and see 220 people all looking at you, it’s quite an interesting experience!. My guest, Simon Kirby, gave us a nine-minute romp through the amazing project that is HS2 and, understanding the mixed audience, balanced the information well, considering the size of the subject and the limitation of time. I think, from comments made directly afterwards, that I was not the only one that thought it was a great event. However, please do feed back any comments, and let us know what you thought of the whole evening so we can keep trying to improve the way we do things.
Being closely involved in the arrangements for the livery dinner, I must here say (and it’s still pretty early on in my year) what a super job both John Freestone and our Beadle, Jonathan Perkins, do on our behalf. The amount of work involved in getting a dinner of this scale ready and, more importantly, enabling it to take place seamlessly and without any apparent fuss or bother, is quite astounding. My thanks go to them both for doing such a great job.
Looking back, it has been a fun and exciting six weeks. Looking forward, it will now start getting busy again, so I hope to be sending you more about our experiences and thoughts in a few weeks time. As always, please feel free to respond and let me know how the blogs are coming across and if there are other things that you would find interesting to include (and the opposite, of course!).