31 May 2017

​May Day is not only a bank holiday, but also my birthday. I was delighted to receive from my family the present of a rowing machine; perfect preparation perhaps for my forthcoming Master’s Charity challenge of rowing down the River Thames. As May ends and I write this blog, I’m afraid it is still firmly in its packaging!

The business of the month opened with the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ 25th Year Anniversary Banquet at Guildhall, which I attended with the Clerk. There were 700 people in attendance, including 83 Masters and the Lord Mayor. It was a huge event and, being on 4 May, there were a few corny jokes of a Star Wars’ flavour (‘May the fourth be with you’), not least from our Lord Mayor who delivered a very entertaining speech, as indeed he always does.

The beginning of May was very busy for me making final arrangements for the 2017 Master’s Jolly. This happens annually and is a very good chance for Court members and their partners to catch up, and it provides valuable bonding time. The event is arranged by the Master and Mistress, so this was an opportunity to promote one of my favourite places, the Isle of Wight. We stayed at the Royal Hotel in Ventnor and I tried to involve young craftsmen in every part of our tour, whether chefs, musicians, or even welders making the new ferries for London! The island promotes itself though, and 36 of us came away suitably refreshed from our long weekend away.

The week following saw the Inter-Livery Shoot at Holland and Holland’s ground near Northwood in Middlesex. We managed to put two teams together, although some didn’t make it on the day, so we were one shot short. This is always an enjoyable day, and the rain failed to dampen our spirits. We had a wonderful lunch, which softened the announcement that the Gunmakers had won yet again! Our ‘second team’, consisting of the Harding brothers, even managed to pick up a prize – although nobody was quite sure what it was for. Shall we call it the ‘luck of the Hardings’…?

On 18 May, the Mistress took a tour to see the Carpenters Company Academy and meet some of their trainees, followed by a lunch with many of her fellow consorts at Carpenters’ Hall. The Carpenters have kindly agreed to run a stand at the Master’s Summer Event on 21 June at Apothecaries’ Hall alongside a blacksmith, turner and a mason, demonstrating their crafts whilst we eat and drink. It promises to be a fine evening, and some tickets are still available.

On Saturday 20th, Judy and I attended the Albuhera Dinner with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (3rd Battalion) in Cambridge, alongside the Immediate Past Master and Mistress, Ian and Tessa Lumsden. We were very privileged to be invited to this rather intimate commemoration of the Battle of Albuhera, and to be invited to drink the individual Silent Toast to the fallen. It was an extraordinarily moving celebration, coupled later with some impressive entertainment from the Corps of Drummers. I was pleased to learn how the PWRR goes from strength to strength and how the Regiment is to be split into four battalions to cope with its unceasing expansion. I was impressed by how they genuinely value our affiliation, and we were made very welcome.

On 23 May, we awoke excited about our trip to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party, only to turn on the radio and hear the news of the appalling events in Manchester. We believed the Garden Party would get called-off for security reasons, but we headed for London anyway. It turned out that the Queen is unstoppable after such tragic events, as perhaps we should all be. On reflection, not changing any of our plans seemed to be one sign of defiance and continuity in which we could all participate. One quite elderly lady who I talked to had raised £51,000 on her own for her local hospital through her sponsored walks. As we talked, it struck me that she certainly deserved to be there, and to have her day, whatever tragedy had happened. We talked with the Duchess of Cornwall for quite some time. She is a Liveryman of several companies, including the Plumbers and Plasterers but, on this occasion and despite her undoubted interest in the Paviors, I failed to recruit her.

Tonight, as May comes to a close, I head for the Wine Circle Annual Meeting and Dinner. As my year progresses, I am finding that there are some meetings that appeal slightly more than others…..

Miles Ashley