Wednesday, December 5, 2018

63. Walbrook Ward Club Banquet, 4 December 2018

The 209th Anniversary Banquet of the Walbrook Ward Club was this year held in the Saddlers’ Hall on Gutter Lane and as a member, I was pleased to attend along with the Mistress. We were delighted to be joined by Past Masters Peter Hall and Mike Williamson and their Consorts and by our Fleet Warden Rob Casey, all of whom are also members of the Club. Together with approximately 150 other guests, we filled the Great Hall to capacity and made for a very pleasant evening.

Founded in 1809, the Walbrook is one of the oldest Ward Clubs in the City. The ward of Walbrook itself covers an area broadly situated around Bank Underground Station and membership of it was originally for those who either worked or lived within its precinct. However, membership nowadays is open much more widely and comprises a diverse and thriving network of people from the business world as well as the Livery.  The Alderman of Walbrook Ward John Garbutt KFO JP is also the Clubs’ President and was the principle speaker on the night.

After a short drinks’ reception in the Court Room we were called to dinner by the Beadle and awaited the Presidents procession. Catering was courtesy of Party Ingredients who put on a wonderful dinner which was expertly served. A Loving Cup was offered and the musical interlude was given by the London Banqueting Ensemble who treated us to some amazing trumpet playing – where do they get their energy from?!

The Loyal Toasts were proposed by the Chairman Stuart Graves and the President made a speech of welcome to all the guests. Responding on their behalf, Brigadier Peter Sharpe gave a most amusing speech about the perils of living in “deepest Wiltshire” and the trials of owning sheep! A good way to end the dinner and a memorable evening.

Our thanks must therefore go to the Master Saddler for the use of his Hall and also to the catering staff and the officers of the Walbrook Ward Club. Thank you.

Monday, December 3, 2018

62. Environmental Cleaners Banquet, 30 November 2018

The Skinners’ Hall on Dowgate was the setting for the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners Ladies Charity Banquet and it was a great pleasure for the Mistress and I to be invited to attend. We joined some seventy or so members of the Company and their guests for a black-tie event and had a wonderful evening.

The present Skinners’ Hall (my first visit) is a charming hall which dates back to the time of the Fire of London. The original Skinners’ Hall – known in those days as the Copped Hall – has stood on this site since the 13th century but alas was consumed by fire in 1666. The current incarnation has a lovely minstrels gallery in the Outer Hall which in turn leads to the Banqueting Hall, laid up as it was with round tables making for an intimate dinner.

After processing as usual we were served an excellent meal courtesy of Party Ingredients and were entertained – not once but three times – by the Lakeside Singers from the Guildhall School of Music. They performed magnificently and their range of musicianship was extraordinary. It being near to Christmas they rounded off with a hearty rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas, with much audience participation!

The focus of the evening was of course to raise funds for the Companies extensive list of charities and so a silent action was held with a range of magnificent prizes. The Mistress and I were lucky to secure a weekend away in Great Dunmow, Essex and we are looking forward going in the New Year. All the other prizes were snapped up too – well done for all the support!

After the Loyal Toasts and a speech of welcome from the Master, the Master Fanmaker, Dr Michael Smith responded on behalf of the guests. And a very good job he did too! A very amusing speech.
And so the evening drew to a close and we bade our farewells. Thank you to the Master and her Wardens for making us all so welcome, for organising the charity auction and for the lovely pewter Christmas Tree decorations. A great way to herald in the festive season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

61. Mistresses Special Birthday, 22 November 2018

Without giving anything away in terms of age, the Mistress celebrated a very special birthday today which kick-started a weekend of fun and frolics! After the usual dinner with the family we set off the next day to Lyme Regis in Dorset where we had rented a house for a large party of friends to celebrate in style. It was all very enjoyable and the Mistress was well pleased.

Not much to add from a Water Conservator perspective but we did find time to inspect the recently overhauled sea defences around the town and the protection they offer to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Very impressive and will sustain the area for many, many years. But then it got too cold so we headed for the pub!

Happy Birthday darling! 

60. Lord Mayors Annual Address, 21 November 2018

It is common practise for the new Lord Mayor to give an annual address to all the Livery Companies and Guilds soon after his installation.  Accordingly (while the Mistress was with the Lady Mayoress in Guildhall – see Blog No 59) I joined with pretty much all of the Masters from across the City at the Mansion House to hear what he had to say.

The address normally takes the form of a lecture by the Lord Mayor himself but this year Alderman Peter Estlin favoured instead an “Question Time” format. This took to form of an “interview” conducted by the Chairman of the Livery Committee, Victoria Russell with the other “panellist” being the Town Clerk and Chief Executive of the City of London Corporation, John Barradell. These three made for a very interesting and at times challenging conversation!

Space does not allow for the details of the many topics covered during the interviews and much of this has been widely reported previously. Suffice to say the Lord Mayor has set an enormous challenge in “Shaping Tomorrows City Today” to the extent that it will not be a Mayoral theme for just one year but will transcend at least three Mayoralties, elements of which were already started by the last two Lord Mayors. These are very much long-term objectives.

Some searching questioning from the Chairman and the floor kept both panellists on their toes and it was particularly fascinating to hear the Town Clerks’ view of the Corporation as a paid executive rather than an elected Lord Mayor. But all parties are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet and so London is in safe hands. We wish the Lord Mayor and his team every success and the Livery will of course play its own part in ensuring that London remains the best city in the world to do business.

A small drinks reception followed which included the opportunity to purchase some of the Lord Mayor’s own whiskey – a good stocking filler perhaps?!

Picture shows (from left to right) the Lord Mayor, Ms Russell and the Town Clerk.

59. Consorts Tea Party, 21 November 2018

The Steering Committee of the Mistresses and Consorts Picture Book traditionally hold a champagne tea party to which the new Lady Mayoress is invited as principle guest. It was with great pleasure therefore that the Mistress attended the Guildhall Club to meet Lindy Estlin and wish her well for the year ahead.

The Mistresses and Consorts Picture Book is a very useful aid to the Livery across the City as it contains – as the name suggests – photographs of all the Masters and Consorts for each Company. It is invaluable at “putting a name to a face” when one is at various functions and as there is a constant “churn” of new Masters etc, one needs to be constantly updated. The Picture Book (which is also available on-line) does just that and we both have a link on our iPhones!

The lovely tea party was to raise awareness of the Book and to generate some funds to help in its production. But the most important element was to enable the new Lady Mayoress to meet as many Consorts as possible and to get to know people. Fortunately, the Mistress has met her several times before and so needed only a short chat to catch up. But others had not met so it was a very useful exercise and most enjoyable. 

Tea and cakes were served and champagne was available although being mid-afternoon, there were not many takers! But a wonderful way to meet fellow Consorts and Mistresses and in such convivial surroundings.

Thank you to the Steering Committee for organising and of course to the Lady Mayoress for her time. 

58. Festival of St Cecilia, 21 November 2018

According to legend, Saint Cecilia was a Roman woman of noble birth who was martyred for her Christian faith around 230 AD having previously lived a chaste existence. In 1683 the Musical Society was formed to counteract the Puritan view that music, whether sacred or secular, was dangerous fare and seeking a suitable saint to represent their cause, settled on St Cecilia. Her feast day is marked on 22 November and it has become tradition for a service to be held in one of the big London churches by rotation - Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Pauls - on or around that date. As the latter falls in the City, the Livery were invited to attend and process. And so it was that the Mistress and I arrived at just after 10:15 for the service.

These days the Festival of St Cecilia is organised by Help Musicians UK, the charity for professional musicians in hardship and as such was a wonderful celebration of music and song. While the Mistress found her place in the North Transept, I joined with Masters of most of the Livery Companies to robe and await our instructions. We then proudly processed in order to our seats under the Great Dome.

The service was led by the Dean of St Pauls, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison and the choral music was provided by no less than three choirs; those of Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Pauls Cathedral – a truly extraordinary combination. These choirs sang as they processed down the nave followed by the other dignitaries (regrettably the Lord Mayor was unable to attend).

The First Lesson was read by Graham Sheffield CBE, Chair of Help Musicians UK and the Second by Jane Asher. These were followed by a testimonial from musician and composer Anna Paola who had her own reasons to be grateful to the charity. We were also treated to a stunning guitar recital by renowned soloist Miloš Karadaglić before the Address which was given by the Reverend Richard Coles, Vicar St Mary the Virgin, Finedon (and former pop-star!). And then of course there was the music! What an absolute delight to be in such surroundings and to hear such singing! A true privilege.

The Cathedral was packed and we recessed back to St Dunstan’s Chapel to dis-robe with the organ ringing in our ears!

More information about Help Musicians UK can be found at

Friday, November 16, 2018

57. Guild of Entrepreneurs, 15 November 2018

I was pleased to receive an invitation to attend the Guild of Entrepreneurs annual lecture held at St Lawrence Jewry straight after the Big Curry Lunch Launch. The timing of the former meant I had little time for the drinks reception beforehand, arriving just as proceedings commenced.

The Guild has been in existence since 2014 and are very active. They are an aspirant Livery Company and will in time join the 110 other companies in the City. Their lecture was entitled “Does a formal education maketh the entrepreneur?” or more succinctly – are entrepreneurs born or made?! To answer this conundrum a panel of six experts discussed the various aspects of the make-up of an entrepreneur, each drawing from their own experiences in business. And they were wide and varied but fascinating nonetheless. The audience too had plenty to say and the whole evening was expertly hosted and managed by Jon Hammond, himself an experienced businessman and advisor.

Needless to say, the answer to the question was not straightforward and binary and the consensus was that it takes a range of skills to be successful (and fail!) but that nature, not nurture had a slight lead. But everyone acknowledged that entrepreneurship alone was not enough; a good back-up team was vital!

So a very interesting debate, followed by some sandwiches. My thanks to the Master and his Wardens – and to the panel – for an excellent evening.