The last two and half months have been extremely busy with a full programme of engagements and events.
April started with a bang – The Big Curry lunch at Guildhall. This event is held in support of ABF – The Soldiers Charity. The company supports the event, and I was joined on the day by Liveryman and Steward, Colin Menzies. Court Assistant Simon Martin also hosted a party of T&Bs who had a very enjoyable time. After a quick break we walked to St Margarets Lothbury for our Livery Speakers evening. Barry Blumsom – City Policeman, John Bevan – Old Bailey Judge, Ray Horwood – Air Commodore and fast jet pilot, and Roger Westbrook – Ambassador, all treated us to a fascinating account of their extremely interesting careers.
A short trip to France to prepare for the T&B excursion was followed by a visit to a Dame Kelly Homes Trust venue in Lambeth. Along with Piers Nicholson and Ian Mitchell-Grimshaw I was able to see the charity we support giving excellent tutorage to young people.
In many ways the highlight of my year has been a lunch I attended at the Old Bailey at the invite of Alderman and Sheriff William Russell. Four guests were able to lunch with the Old Bailey judges as they took a break from the Court proceedings. Discussion at lunch was fascinating after which I was able to spend an hour and half in Court One observing a ‘cannabis farm’ trial!
I attended the Founders Day lunch at the City of London School for girls, which is located effectively within the bounds of the Barbican. The T&Bs have a close connection with the school in that the ancestors of Past Master Nicholas Ward were the founders. In the evening I attended the Cobham Lecture organized by the Air Pilots Company at the premises of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
There are always T&B duties that have to be fitted in and fortunately both the Finance Committee and Communications Committee meetings are organized on the same day. Two new prospective Court Assistants were also interviewed.
As Master I am invited to join the judges for the final judging of the Triennial Awards. I joined Upper Warden Jeff Fuller and Past Master David Cole-Adams to visit the excellent schemes that have been nominated.
As it was their 25th anniversary, the Information Technologists Company held their annual dinner at Guildhall, which was packed full. Both the Clerk and I were invited to this special occasion for a relatively new company.
Liveryman Colin Beeck kindly invited the Mistress and I, with Deputy Master Roger Westbrook to a fabulous lunch at City Social. Colin lives in Perth, Australia but manages to join us in the UK on an annual basis.
The Sons of the Clergy Service was held at St Pauls in the late afternoon, followed by dinner at Merchant Taylors Hall. Unfortunately the acoustics in St Pauls were not good which in many ways spoilt the sermon from the Archbishop of York. Fortunately this was not a problem at Merchant Taylors Hall where both Canon Roger Royle, and ex. Communard, Reverend Richard Coles entertained us with great humour.
Lunch at Bakers Hall as a guest was extremely enjoyable as we witnessed the Bakers paying their ‘rent’ to the landlord in a ceremony that is rarely made public. The rent due is 6 loaves of bread, 3 white and 3 brown! In the evening I attended St Barts Hospital viewing day service at St Bartholomews the Great. This is a wonderful city church and is well worth a visit.
Thursday 11th May 2017 was a big day! The Annual Company dinner at Haberdashers Hall. As well as many members of the Company, we were joined by guests, including a number of friends from our home village of Mells. I have to say that they thoroughly enjoyed the T&B tradition and hospitality. It was also good to hear from Jeremy Crossley, the vicar of St Margaret's Lothbury, who is a good friend of the Company. We were also delighted to be joined by a certain Freeman, Johnny Szymanski, who had travelled from Melbourne, Australia to support the Master and Mistress.
Another day was spent viewing entries for the Triennials, after which we hosted the Wardens and Clerks dinner at DeanStreetTownhouse. Soho is not a normal venue for a T&B function, but we decided to stray across London!
The following day we visited the H G Matthews brickworks in Bellingdon, near Amersham. A group of 25 witnessed traditional brickmaking hosted by Jim Matthews and his family. As a complete surprise we also got the opportunity to view a collection of 60 vintage tractors. The highlight of the day was the pub lunch which was amazing value and super quality.
Friday 19th May was full-on with two awards ceremonies to attend. The NFRC Awards were held in the Park Plaza Westminster hotel at lunchtime followed by the TTA Awards at the Radisson Blu in the evening. Both awards functions honour craftsmen that operate in our designated fields. The NFRC Awards were hosted by Stef McGovern from BBC Breakfast News who was excellent. The TTA Awards featured amongst other attractions a display of Burlesque.
An invite to a Buckingham Palace garden party is a great honour and the Mistress and I were excited as we walked through the entrance to the Palace. The whole event is carefully managed but we were able to get within viewing distance of our Queen, who looked absolutely wonderful.
The next day I travelled to the Royal Engineers barracks at Chatham to experience ‘Beating Retreat’. The Royal Engineers always make us most welcome and I think our association with the Corps is much appreciated.
Court Assistant John Schofield and I attended the Christs Hospital Speech Day at the their Horsham campus. For those of you that have not visited this school, it is an amazing facility with wonderful buildings and grounds. The standards that are set are extremely high, and the school provides scholarships for students from state schools. While at the school, John and I were able to locate the newly installed Company stained glass crest.
The Mistress arranged a Ladies visit to Chelsea Physic Garden that was originally established by the Apothecaries Company in 1673 to provide herbal medicinal remedies. I was able to attend the event and thoroughly enjoyed these superb and unusual gardens in the middle of Chelsea.
We accepted an invitation from the Builders Merchants Master to join them on a visit to Hampstead Heath. This is a part of London that I had no knowledge of and was staggered to discover that the Heath covers 690 acres, overlooking the City of London.
The June Court meeting was followed by the Masters and Clerks lunch at Cutlers Hall. This lunch provides the opportunity for the Company to invite other Masters and Clerks who have kindly offered their hospitality in the past.
Every year the Livery Company Masters are invited to a weekend at Ironbridge, which provides the opportunity to get to know the other Masters and Mistresses a little better. The weekend is a mixture of visits to the museums and formal dinners. The second dinner was attended by the Lord Mayor and his two Sheriffs.
It is at this event that the Past Masters Association for the year is formed.
The Mistress and I drove down to West Somerset to have lunch with Bishop George Cassidy and his wife Jane. George was previously the Company Chaplain before he became the Bishop of Southwell, near Nottingham. George is now retired but still carries out duties occasionally for the Bishop of Bristol.
There had been much planning involved in preparing for the T&Bs excursion to France. Everyone arrived safely. The majority travelled by air, but a few took the opportunity to drive to the Languedoc region of Southern France. The three days went exactly to plan with no hitches. We were blessed with beautiful weather and our French partners who provided transport, accommodation and wonderful food and wines, were a delight to be with, including our bus driver Cyril who was a star! Everyone arrived back in the UK safely.
Only three months until the end of the year which seems incredible. Time flies by, but good stamina is required!