Thursday, March 21, 2019

98. Cheapside Re-Fill Fountain, 20 March 2019

The second event of the week to mark World Water Day on 22 March was to open a new water bottle re-fill fountain outside St Mary Le Bow Church in Cheapside. This initiative to enable consumers to re-fill their water containers rather than buy a single use plastic bottle is a central element of the Plastic Free City campaign being run by the City of London Corporation. As the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators are playing a key role in this, it was a great honour to be invited to assist in the opening of the fountain along with the Lady Mayoress.

Situated as it is right next to the world-famous church of St Mary Le Bow (see picture), the water fountain has just been installed by the Corporation and is the eighth such fountain in the Square Mile. A group of invited guests including the Fleet Warden and the PR Manager, both of the Water Conservators together with the Alderman for Cheap and others from the Corporation and the Cheapside Business Alliance gathered around the fountain to await the arrival of the Lady Mayoress. We were thrilled to be joined by a dozen or so children from the Hugh Myddelton School armed with model albatrosses which they had made from recycled materials. Very talented and right on message.

I opened the ceremony by giving a brief speech about the need to reduce single use plastic and the damage it can do to our rivers and oceans. I encouraged everyone to make but a small change to their behaviour such that fountains like these could replace the tide of plastic bottles sold every day to slake the thirst of Londoners. And it’s free!

In opening the fountain, the Lady Mayoress (see picture) thanked the children for coming along and challenged them to maintain this change in buying habits and move away from plastic. She got a very good response! She then took the first drink from the fountain using a water bottle supplied by the Cheapside Business Alliance.
We then adjourned for a light lunch courtesy of Standard Aberdeen in their adjacent offices. This gave us a chance to chat to the school children to find out more about their Eco-council and the work they are doing; very inspiring stuff. We were also able to talk to members of the Corporation who are very committed to Plastic Free City and have plenty more ideas in the pipeline (no pun!). The Water Conservators are helping them every step along the way.

So, thank you to everyone who made this all possible and in particular to Claire Dumontier-Marriage from the Business Alliance for all her input and commitment. Keep up the good work!

Picture show the Lady Mayoress and the Master using the fountain under the close supervision of children from the Hugh Myddelton School.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

97. Modern Companies Dinner, 18 March 2019

Held bi-annually – the last being in September 2018 (see Blog No 16) – the spring Modern Companies Dinner was kindly hosted by the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers at the lovely Watermen’s Hall at St Mary at Hill. These dinners are a rare opportunity to bring all the Modern Companies (those formed since 1926) together for an evening of fraternity and fellowship. They are always very busy and great fun.

Welcomed by the Master Hackney Carriage Driver, Mr Phil Davis and his Wardens we were treated to a champagne reception in the Court Room. With upwards of 70 guests it was a tight fit and soon got very loud and very warm. But it was great to meet up with old friends – mainly Masters, Senior Wardens and Clerks – from the Modern Companies and the conversation flowed. But soon it was time to be called to dinner in the Freeman’s Room.

Grace was said by the Learned Clerk of the Hackney Carriage Drivers, Major Belinda Tregear before we sat down to a wonderful meal courtesy of the Cook and the Butler. Most delicious. After the Loyal and Civic Toasts and a few words of welcome by the Master, Alderman Alison Gowman (see picture) gave a very interesting speech. In it Alderman Gowman praised the work of the Modern Companies and encouraged us to continue to play an increasingly active role in the industries that we represent. She spoke especially about sustainability in all its forms and set out clearly what the City of London Corporation and its residents and business expect from a modern, vibrant and relevant Livery movement. It was good to receive this recognition and the assembled guests showed their appreciation.

A swift Stirrup Cup was offered before leaving and we all bade our farewells after what had been a marvellous, if all too brief, evening. Thank you to the team of the Hackney Carriage Drivers for all their hard work in organising the dinner. We look forward to the next later this year which will be hosted by the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants. A date not to be missed!

Monday, March 18, 2019

96. Thames Foreshore Cleaning, 16 March 2019

To kick off a week of events culminating with an exhibition in the Guildhall Yard on World Water Day, 22 March, a foreshore cleaning session was arranged for Saturday morning. Working in association with the City of London Corporation’s Plastic Free City campaign and with Thames 21, the event was designed with a dual objective; firstly to collect data as to the types of wastes deposited in the Thames and secondly, to clean it up! Both very worthy causes and so it was a pleasure to turn out on what was a very windy (but thankfully dry) Saturday morning to do our bit.

I was joined by Fleet Warden, Rob Casey and our PR Manager, Keith Tozzi and we met up with about 15 other like-minded people at the Banker public house just under Cannon Street Station. The assembled crew included Jeremy Simons, PHES Chair of the Corporation together with representatives from Nomura, Goldman Sachs (both local employers who have been very active in reducing single use plastic (SUP) in their offices) and Thames 21. Our guide for the day was AJ McConville ably assisted by Issy Burkitt, both of Thames 21 with their first task being to run through the H&S briefing. This was very thorough and we were also kitted out in protective gloves.

A short stroll upstream along the Riverside Walk took us to Queenhithe beach, a small sharply sloping piece of foreshore right up against an office block under construction. One has walked past it many times before but never thought much about it. Access was over a defensive wall (see picture!) and our data gathering could then commence. Using metre squares, we carefully examined all the waste on the beach, most of which had been brought in by the tide. We were particularly keen to identify SUP and related items and each were logged before placed in bags for disposal (recycled). We were all shocked at quite how much there was with the bulk of it being water bottles. It was only a small beach but we picked over three bags plus some other larger items including half a street-side litter bin (see picture).

The beach itself was interesting in that it mainly comprised of four types of aggregate; oyster shells, red brick and slate fragments, small pieces of coke and coal and thousands and thousands of animal bones (from human consumption). There were very few stones although broken clay tobacco pipes were much in evidence too. Most bazaar. And what was more extraordinary was that most of these items were from Tudor times and had been washing up and down the beach for hundreds of years. If organic matter such as bones and shells can last that long, how much worse will be inorganic plastic? Very sobering.

Once the data logging had been completed, we gave the whole beach a good clean and it looked much the better for it. But by now we were getting cold so a brisk walk back to the Banker for a wash and change of clothes before a light buffet lunch. It was good to get into the warm again.

So, a very successful morning and the data collected will do much to assist in targeting plastic reduction campaigns. The Queenhithe beach is sampled every 10 days and so a good picture of the pollution is being built up. There is so much work to be done but events like these help raise awareness as well as having a practical benefit.

Thanks to everyone who turned out and to AJ and Issy for organising. For further details of the Water Conservators week of events please visit our website

Friday, March 15, 2019

95. Carmen Livery Banquet, 13 March 2019

The Mansion House was the setting for the Worshipful Company of Carmen’s Annual Livery and Awards Night Banquet and the Mistress and I were kindly invited to attend. This ‘white tie’ event is the opportunity for the Carmen to recognise those who have made a contribution to modern transportation, particularly in London. We were privileged therefore to join some 160 other guests for this splendid evening.

A drinks reception was held in the Grand Salon and we were warmly welcomed by the Master and Mistress Carmen, Stephen and Linda Britt and their Wardens. It was good to chat and to make new friends in a relaxed atmosphere. But we were soon called to dinner and were proud to process to our seats on the Masters table. There followed an excellent dinner served by the highly experienced Mansion House team and we were treated to a musical accompaniment from the Gallery performed by the London Banqueting Ensemble. They made the whole dinner go with a swing.

After the Sung Grace a Loving Cup was offered which is always good fun, followed by the Loyal and Civic Toasts. We then came to the awards ceremony, presided over by the Awards Committee Chairman who read the citations for the four categories. Worthy winner included Will Butler-Adams from Brompton Bikes for innovation in bicycle design; Ricardo Ltd for services to transport technology over the last hundred years; The Boiler & Engineering Skills Training Trust for their training and apprenticeship schemes and to Network Rail Thameslink for the re-development of London Bridge Station. All prize-winners were warmly congratulated by the guests and stepped forward to receive their certificates (see picture).

The Lord Mayors representative was Alderman Ian Luder CBE (see picture with the Master Carmen) who gave a short address followed by the Senior Warden Col Simon Bennett who welcomed all the guest and toasted us heartily – a very kind gesture. Our principle speaker was Mike Brown MVO, Commissioner of Transport for London (see picture) who gave a most enlightening speech about the work of TfL. He paid tribute to the enormous achievements that had been made and the contributions yet to come. Not afraid to tackle contentious issues like Bank road junction and the delayed Elizabeth Line, he set all these and other initiatives in the context of London being one of the most complex and rapidly growing cities in Europe, if not the world. It was a fascinating insight to the world of urban planning and he is a great speaker.

And then it was over. After recessing with the principle guests, we bade our farewells after what was a splendid and fascinating evening. Our thanks of course go to the Master and his Wardens for their kind generosity and also to the Clerk for all the hard work in putting such an event together. A real privilege to be there.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

94. Consorts Basketmaking Day, 13 March 2019

A day of basketmaking for Livery Consorts was organised by the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers and the Mistress was pleased to receive an invitation. So armed with apron, scissors, water spray and some clothes pegs, she made her way to the Dutch Church to join twenty or so other Consorts to learn more about this fascinating skill.

The Common Club Rush Schoenoplectus Iacustris is, as everyone knows, the material of choice in basketmaking and so copious supplies were available for the participants. After some initial tuition, work soon got underway with the first project being a place mat. Basic techniques were quickly mastered and before long mats of all shapes and sizes were appearing. Most rewarding.

After lunch, the work rate did not slacken and many weavers (?) moved on to more ambitious bowls and larger mats. The quality was, shall we say, variable but good fun was had by all and the chatter was most engaging. At the end of the day the results were proudly displayed by the now, weary-fingered craftsmen and women (see picture) and like all good craft events, they were allowed to take them proudly home!

A great day and thank you to the Master Basketmaker, his Consort and the rest of the team for making this such fun. As the Mistress remarked on leaving, professional basketmakers have nothing to fear….

93. Masters Committee, 8 March 2019

Having recovered from the exertions of the Pancake Race earlier in the week (see Blog No 90) it was time to get back to some hard work in the form of the Masters Committee. As previously mentioned, this Committee is an essential part of the machinery that runs the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators and does much to aid its effective operation. Meeting as we do in the Guildhall allows a very close liaison with the Corporation to ensure we remain fully engaged with one of our key stakeholders.

There is much to discuss and apart from the usual matters such as membership (showing some very positive increases) and finance (a constant juggling act), the forthcoming week of events to celebrate World Water Day took up a lot of time. I am indebted to the Fleet Warden and the PR Manager in particular for all their work in bring these events together. Full details of the week can be found on the Companys website; it will be an exciting few days.

We also spent time planning the Election Court Lunch on 11 April and I was delighted to note that we have in excess of 110 guests attending. In fact, due to the clamour for tickets we have had to change to a larger venue and so we will now be aboard HQS Wellington (not Wax Chandlers’) to accommodate us all. A nice problem to have.

There were plenty of other issues to discuss and I was once again very impressed by the levels of team work and enthusiasm displayed. Thank you all for your support of the Company and I look forward to its continued success.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

92. Master Mariners Court Luncheon, 6 March 2019

The Learned Clerk and I received an invitation form the Master Master Mariner to attend their Master and Clerks Court Luncheon on 6 March. Unfortunately, our Clerk was unable to attend and so I went alone. But one is never really alone in the Livery – there are so many friendly faces to greet one. And this luncheon was no exception.

Warmly welcomed on board HQS Wellington by the Master, Captain Robert Booth and his Wardens, we guests were treated to a drink’s reception on the quarterdeck. It being early March one might have expected it to be very cold but with all those assembled and with the heaters on it was very cosy and most pleasant. The views of the river never cease to amaze.

But soon it was time for luncheon and we all went below. After a special grace written by John Masefield in 1959, we enjoyed the meal presented by the Cook and the Butler catering team. There then followed the Loyal and Civic Toasts given by the Master before his excellent speech about the origins of the Royal Navy and the part played by the City in its long history. Most enlightening.

We then came to the main purpose of the day which was the presentation of prizes to three very worthy recipients. The RN prize-winner was Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Cowell; the MSc prize went to Ms Eleni Jouliano (see picture with the Master) and the LNS prize-winner was Miss Anya Haydon-Guppy. Citations covering the work of all three was read by the Clerk, Commodore Angus Menzies RN and it was wonderful to hear of their excellent achievements. Well done one and all.  

The principle guest was Commodore Bob Sanguinetti of the UK Chamber of Shipping who gave an excellent speech as to the work of the Chamber and the challenges that lie ahead. He also proposed a toast to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

A Stirrup Cup was offered on our departure from what was a very enjoyable and friendly luncheon amongst good friends. Thank you to the Master and Wardens, to the Clerk and the catering team. The next time I shall be on Wellington will be for our own Election Court Lunch; I am sure we will be made to feel just as welcome.