I extend warm Summer greetings to you all and I hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
Starting with Covid-19 matters, there was confirmation that the vaccines would be rolled out to all 16-17 year olds, and this commenced immediately. There was also medical approval for the Moderna vaccine to be given to 12-17 year olds, but this process has yet to receive political backing. The great news is that over 75% of all eligible adults have now received both doses of vaccine, which will hopefully enable the “normality” that we are all now experiencing, to continue long into the future.
August has been a fairly quiet month in terms of City Events, but very momentous, as I managed to finally hold my long-awaited Annual Dinner. And what a marvellous event it was! The setting was the fabulous Grand Hall of the Barber-Surgeons, where around 100 of us were seated at a wonderful horse-shoe shaped dining table under the watchful gaze of Holbein’s Henry VIII. I was very privileged to have Sheriff Professor Michael Mainelli as my Principal Guest, with his wife, Elisabeth. We dined on superb food and drank plenty of excellent champagnes and good wines. It was a night to remember.
I also managed to hold the joint Charter Day and Consort’s Visit this month. A small group of us visited the amazing Copped Hall in Epping. This is a fine Georgian Mansion that is currently under extensive restoration by a group of incredibly dedicated and hard working volunteers. Liveryman Dick Spellar, one of the Trustees of the Copped Hall Trust, facilitated this wonderfully interesting visit, which included a tour of the house and extensive gardens and a fabulous homemade lunch. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
September looks like being a very busy month, and I am looking forward to joining in with all the activities that the City has to offer.
I extend warm Summer greetings to all and hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
July has been a month of contrasting news and events. The weather has been extreme in different ways all over the world, from extreme heat in parts, to extreme flooding in others. The Met Office issued its first ever "Amber Extreme Heat Warning", as temperatures exceeded 30°C across large swathes of the UK. Sport has also taken our emotions from one extreme to the other – England managed to get to the EUFA Euro Finals for the first time in many years which made everyone elated- but then there was disbelief and sadness as we were beaten by Italy on penalties!
Turning to Covid matters, there was good news as the vaccine was extended to many under 18s and the daily numbers of infections began to fall. In the light of this good news, the Prime Minister confirmed that the fourth and final stage of the Government's conditional lockdown easing would proceed as planned on 19 July, which was great news for the hospitality industry.
In terms of Company business, I attended a meeting of the Wine Committee at Davy’s Wine vaults in Greenwich this month where the very important business of reviewing our stocks of wines and choosing new purchases for future dates was discussed in some depth. Francis Flavin of Davy’s was there to guide us through the current market and quality of harvests, which the Committee found most interesting. I also attended meetings of the Finance and Communications Committees.
In the City things have taken off with a bang! On the actual day of lockdown easing, Maureen and I were invited to a lunch for “Two Termers” at Saddlers’ Hall, hosted by the Prime Warden Saddler and the Upper Bailiff Weaver and attended by Sheriff Chris Hayward. It was a wonderful event, commencing in a marquee with a band playing while we sipped champagne on a warm Summer day.
As this was the very first event in the new eased environment, we still sat on tables of 8, slightly socially distanced, but it was a joyous occasion nonetheless which marked a return to normality for the City.
The next day, Maureen had a private lunch with the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Hilary Russell, at the Mansion House, which she enjoyed immensely, and the day after we were invited to Apothecaries’ Hall by The Mistress Apothecary for an event entitled “Death by Shakespeare”, plus lunch. This was a very amusing talk, given by Kathryn Harkup, outlining the many different ways that Shakespeare killed off his characters over the years – snakebite, lack of sleep, and poison in the ear being just some of them!
And on this same day, once again, Maureen was invited to a private dinner party and tour of the Old Bailey by Sheriff’s Consort, Mrs Elisabeth Mainelli, which she enjoyed thoroughly. To end this amazing week of events, we were invited by the Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers to a White Tie Banquet at The Mansion House to celebrate the 450th Anniversary of the granting of their Royal Charter. This was a splendid occasion in the presence of the Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor and Sheriff Michael Mainelli. As always, the food and wine were superb, as was the entertainment on the night. What a fabulous end to a very special week.
On the Saturday we joined in the celebration of Liveryman Ray Baker’s life at his family home in Croydon where Ray’s son, Liveryman Ed Baker, held a wonderful barbecue and garden party in Ray’s memory. It was really nice to be able to reminisce about Ray’s life and his wonderful contribution to the Tylers and Bricklayers and to the wider world of bricklaying generally. He will be sadly missed.
I extend warm Summer greetings to you all and hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
The month of May continued with good news in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations, with the roll out continuing apace - some 40 million UK adults have received a first jab (over 75% of the UK adult population), and around 30 million have received both jabs, such great work by our NHS and volunteers. Although the emergence of new variants means we have to continue being cautious, it does appear that we are on the right path to return to something resembling normality very soon. We are eagerly awaiting the announcement by the Prime Minister on 14th June to see if the Government’s programme of opening up is going to be maintained. I sincerely hope so as we have our wonderful Masters' and Clerks' luncheon planned and ready for 22nd June. Fingers tightly crossed!
Turning to other, non-Covid matters in May, there were several local and regional elections held, with varying results around the country. Also, Leicester City won the FA Cup Final for the first time, and the final Debenhams store closed after 240 years in business.
In the City, things were fairly quiet for a change. Zoom meetings continue to take place on a regular basis, but we have also started to take tentative steps towards holding face to face meetings. I attended our very first face to face T&B Committee meeting in over 15 months - the Treasures Committee, which was held at the home of Past Master Roger Westbrook CMG. Huge thanks to Roger for hosting this first meeting and for kindly supplying the fine champagne to celebrate our first get together. It was good to be in each other's company once more.
I also joined the Renter Warden, Upper Warden, Clerk, Chairman of the Treasures Committee and Liveryman Martin Reading to carry out the Company's annual stock take at Carpenters' Hall. It was really nice to be greeted warmly by the staff at Carpenters' Hall who all seemed as pleased to see us as we were to see them. Very slowly, it certainly feels like things are beginning to take on a form of normality again. We finished off the stock take after several hours and ended the day with a wonderful lunch at a local pub, marvellous!
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk via Zoom on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. I also attended a meeting of the new Membership Committee and interviewed a new candidate for admission to the Company.
The Lord Mayor called together all current Masters to form the Past Masters' Association (PMA) for 2021. This would normally take place over a weekend at Ironbridge, but we contented ourselves with a Zoom session. The most pressing item of business was choosing a name for the PMA and after much deliberation and with over 50 suggestions, the name chosen was "The Unmutables" (not Immutables).
I attended a smaller number of City events in May, but they continue to be most enjoyable. There was a wonderful talk entitled "Bovines and Banquets" given by Past Master Horner, starting with the history of the company which was established in 1234 and outlining the many uses of horn and how important it was for early window panes, drinking vessels, knife handles, combs, reading aids and of course purely decorative items such as snuff boxes and sticks. Horn played an early role in the medical world with measuring vessels and spoons made out of translucent horn.
I also attended a fascinating tour of Hampstead and Highgate where we explored the picturesque streets and green spaces to discover the hidden history of this beautiful part of the London.
Additionally we held our own Company event which was a virtual tour of the "Secret Gardens "of the City of London. Katie Wignall, a qualified Blue Badge Guide took us for a lovely long walk around some of the most beautiful hidden gardens in the City. Many of these are in plain sight, but get overlooked as people hurry past them. It was a most interesting and entertaining event, thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.
I am looking forward to seeing many Company members and guests at our Masters' and Clerks' luncheon at Trinity House on Tuesday 22nd June, and also at my Annual Banquet at Saddlers’ Hall on Wednesday 14th July, which is going to be a very special occasion after such a long period of absence from each other.
Warm Summer greetings to you all and I hope that everyone continues to be fit and well. It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through the year. The month of June continued with good news in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations, with the roll out increasing all the time and now all 18-year-olds and above being eligible. For the first time in over a year, we had a day with no Covid related deaths, excellent news. The great thing is that many vaccination centres are now accepting “walk-ins”, which makes it so much more accessible for everyone, especially the youngsters. That was the very welcome good news – unfortunately there was some bad news this month as well, because the eagerly awaited “unlocking” that was supposed to happen on 21st June was postponed for 4 weeks, mainly due to the spread of the Delta variant. This was a huge blow for many people, especially in the hospitality business because preparations were well advanced for the grand full re-opening of restaurants, bars, theatres and many more. We are now all keeping our fingers tightly crossed for the next announcement by the PM which will hopefully unlock everything on 19th July.
Turning to other, non-Covid matters, June was a fairly busy month with several momentous events, including the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the surprise result of the Chesham and Amersham by election and Matt Hancock’s resignation as Health Secretary, and his replacement with Sajid Javid. And of course, the most important thing by far, England beat Germany 2-0 in the Euro 2020! In the City things were very quiet again. The much awaited “Ironbridge Weekend” for Masters of all Livery Companies was cancelled for the second year, as were many planned “face to face” events. I did, however, attend a couple of very interesting virtual tours. One was called “London’s Lost Rivers”, given by the Upper Warden of the Wheelwrights Company, which gave a fascinating insight into the many old rivers that still flow under the City and which were such an important part of the history of the City. Some well known rivers include the Fleet, which became polluted as Smithfield butchers threw remains of dead animals into the river, and was eventually incorporated into the sewer system, the Tyburn, which flows through Regents Park under Buckingham Palace, and the Walbrook which originally ran under the Roman London Wall.
There was also an interesting talk about Cheapside and its environs, given by Andy Catto, a qualified City of London Guide, which I found fascinating.
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk via Zoom on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. Maureen and I visited Apothecaries’ Hall with the Clerk, and the current and past Chairmen of the Craft Committee to make plans for the forthcoming Triennial Awards Ceremony and Luncheon. It is a beautiful Hall and we are all confident of holding a wonderful event there on 2nd September. I also attended meetings of the Events Support Group and the Charitable Trusts Committee. I was very pleased to attend the City of London Freedom Ceremony for our Company Freeman Roger Booth. Despite having to be held virtually, it was a wonderful ceremony, conducted by Murray Craig, Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court. As always, Murray made it both a stimulating and fun occasion. Congratulations, Roger, on receiving your Freedom of the City of London.
We held another Meeting of the Court of Assistants virtually this month and I sincerely hope this will be the last virtual Court meeting for a long time. At the meeting we discussed the funding of a further pupil (our Presentee) at Christ’s Hospital School and agreed that the Company would match fund any amounts pledged by Liverymen, up to a sum of £18,000. This would enable a fund of £36,000 to be made available for our next Presentee. I was also delighted to be able to admit Rosemarie Bird and Daniel Clarkson as Freemen of the Company – a huge welcome to them both.
Rosie Bird with proud Father, Past Master Dr George Bird
And last, but by no means least, we held our first face to face luncheon on 22nd June at Trinity House. It was a truly wonderful occasion, despite having to socially distance to an extent. The champagne flowed beautifully with much good conversation, excellent food and wine and great fellowship. We thoroughly enjoyed being in each other’s company once more after such a long time. Plans are now well underway for a non-socially distanced Annual Dinner on 5th August at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall. I am looking forward to seeing many of my freinds and colleagues at this wonderful event, which is going to be a very special occasion after such a long period of absence from each other.
I extend warm Spring greetings to all and hope that everyone continues to be fit and well.
The month of April passed very quickly with continuing good news on the Covid-19 front. The NHS vaccination programme has moved on apace with 36 million people having received the first vaccination and some 18 million the second. This is a great achievement and the results are beginning to show with decreasing numbers of people catching the virus, being hospitalised and, sadly, losing their lives. The country is slowly beginning to return to some sort of normality, which we are all looking forward to.
Turning to other, non-Covid matters in April, the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was held in Windsor Castle. It was a wonderful event held on a beautifully sunny day and reflected the respect felt for the Duke of Edinburgh by the nation.
Two other important events in April that deserve mention, for very different reasons, are, the quashing of convictions of 39 former Postmasters by the Court of Appeal after "one of the UK's most widespread miscarriages of justice", and the short-lived European Football Super League disaster!
In the City, the Zoom meetings continue to take place on a regular basis, making our diaries fairly busy. However, I have heard several people saying that they are beginning to feel a bit "zoomed out" and are now ready to start meeting in person again. Hopefully this will happen in the very near future - plans are afoot in the Tylers and Bricklayers and many other Livery Companies.
I met with the Lord Mayor for a coffee morning, which was very convivial, and also attended several online events and tours, including a tour of Charles Dickens' City of London, a Jack the Ripper Tour and a tour of Goldsmiths' Hall and its wonderful treasures. There was also a fascinating and entertaining talk given by Alexandra Hayward, Sheriff's Consort, whose City of London career started as a Nurse at Barts’ Hospital in 1983, through to family life and living in the Old Bailey.
I continue to meet with the Wardens and Clerk on a regular basis to discuss Company business and make plans for the future. I attended meetings of the Communications Committee and the Almoner's Support Group and also interviewed two new candidates for admission to the Company.
It is very pleasing to be able to report that we are now fully booked for the Masters' and Clerks' luncheon being held at Trinity House on Tuesday 22nd June. I am really looking forward to this opportunity for us to get together face to face after such a long time - the last T&B event we held "in reality" was the Craft Awards on 5th March 2020. So this is going to be a fantastic occasion for all of us and our guests.