30 April 2017

There is just something about Apothecaries’ Hall, and it was a welcome return when Judy and I walked again through the doors as guests of the Company for their ‘first guest dinner’ on 6 April. This is perhaps one of the smallest halls (ironically, the Company has the largest membership of over 1,600) but also, to my mind, one of the most beautiful. It is also the oldest surviving hall, and much of it remains unchanged since its inevitable rebuilding (1668) after the Great Fire. We were made to feel most welcome for a wonderful evening. The Clerk was particularly fast on his feet and secured the rather wonderful musicians for our Spring Livery Dinner. ​

I am looking forward to the Master’s Summer Event in the Courtyard of Apothecaries’ Hall on 21 June and we have started to secure craftsmen for the event, as promised, and some tours.

In the two days before the Apothecaries’ event, we had started to have some discussion about the new Academy and Education Steering Group. We are beginning to feel that, if we can bring together some of our educational initiatives more formally and provide some time to support them, we can achieve more of what we already have done. It was a rich conversation at the Charity Committee on 5 April and the next step is to agree terms of reference and hold our first meeting, hopefully in early June.

We had also found time to have a further discussion on sponsorship during early April with David Ing of the Marketing Committee. It was very pleasing to see the sponsorship prospectus progressing and ideas as to how we could secure closer and more productive relationships with our sponsors in future. Sponsorship is important to our financial wellbeing and the work was a prelude to taking the initiative to the Court on the 25 April.

On Monday the 10 April, I was pleased to invite members of the Liverymen’s Committee to a buffet lunch at the RAC club. They have a very busy schedule of social events ahead, including the forthcoming Regents Park Open Air Theatre on 31 May and the tour of Middle Temple on 7 June. We took the time to discuss a sailing event and this is now planned for 10 September, with a boat now chartered and 13 people ‘on board’ so far. If you are interested in joining us, do sign up and we will arrange a second yacht.

On the 20 April, I was invited by Pavior and Sheriff, Alderman William Russell, to take lunch with the Judges at the Old Bailey, and later to sit in on and observe a trial. Much of the work at the Old Bailey is at the extreme end of the criminal scale, and many of the cases are for murder. At the time, a would-be Tube-bomber was being tried, and was later convicted. In court, one is immediately aware of the hard and meticulous work being done to probe the truth, the tragedy for those directly involved and the burden on the jury. You come away with a real sense of the service being performed, in sometimes difficult circumstances, by those enabling our legal system.

In the days that followed, the Clerk appeared distracted and far less interested in our never-ending task of diary co-ordination than usual. This was something to do, he informed me, with making arrangements for the forthcoming Spring Livery Dinner at Goldsmiths’ Hall. If you were one of the 211 that attended that magical evening, then you will have reaped the benefits of his considerable efforts. It was of course a beautiful hall, the speeches were mercifully short, and there was a really great speech from Melanie Hampton to welcome the guests. The welcoming speech can be a particularly difficult ‘gig’, as the material you start with is essentially a list and you have to turn it into entertainment – a fine art! I sensed that the assembled much enjoyed our Spring Livery Dinner, as I most certainly did. The evening was made even better by the earlier Court meeting, at which support was given for the Marketing Committee’s sponsorship initiative.

On Wednesday 26, I was able to attend the Construction Youth Trust event with Ian Edwards at the London Transport Museum. This was a great celebration of what is being done, and I was able to promote what we are doing through the Academy. I also met with the new CEO, Carol Lynch, and we talked about how we might strengthen the relationship between the Paviors and CYT. Ian and I were then called upon to create a load-bearing bridge out of lollypop sticks and sticky tape. We made the best and by far the strongest bridge of course, but were inexplicably marked down for ‘cockiness’ after my explanation of our design philosophy; you can’t win them all.

The next morning, I took my brothers-in-law on a short motorcycle tour to the battlefields of Ypres for a few days; some beer-drinking and brotherly bonding. What we discovered were the heartrending stories of Dunkirk, Ypres and Passchendaele: stories that put the world into sharp and immediate perspective. It is particularly poignant now, 100 years after the events, that still hundreds of people gather every evening at the Menin gate to hear the Last Post, many obviously deeply affected. On the return journey, my usually trusty motorcycle broke down on the M3, 40 miles from home; I found myself to be remarkably sanguine. In the great scheme of things, it really didn’t seem to matter all that much.
Miles Ashley