I begin by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope and pray that 2021 will see a turnaround that enables us to start getting together to enjoy once more the great things that our wonderful City of London has to offer.
The year commenced in great style with our new Clerk, Heather Smith, taking up her position. A huge welcome to Heather who has already got her feet well under the table, having organised and planned a few events and having already met up virtually with several Liverymen. We all look forward to working with Heather to continue the great work of our previous Clerk, John Brooks.
January brought the roll out of the major vaccination programme, including the approval of a third vaccine, the Moderna Vaccine. To date some 8 million people have been vaccinated, which is fantastic news for the country. Unfortunately, despite the vaccine programme, the PM had to implement a third lock down from early January, which meant closing down all non-essential shops including restaurants and bars and hairdressers. There was a feeling of déjà vu that swept the nation, but I am glad to say that the vast majority of people simply got on with their lives in lockdown once again.
January is generally a quiet month in terms of T&B business, but this year it was a bit different with a number of virtual events to attend. The year started brilliantly with our virtual cheese tasting event hosted by Cheesemonger of the Year, Andy Swinscoe. Andy took us expertly through the six wonderful farm crafted cheeses that had been delivered to our doors and gave us a great insight into each cheese and its provenance. We have some fantastic small farms making the best cheeses in the UK and we certainly appreciated them all. It was equally wonderful to enjoy the wines that had been recommended to us by our Wine Chairman, Past Master Philip Parris. A great event.
I also attended several virtual meetings with the Clerk, Upper Warden and Renter Warden and the annual meeting of the Nominations Committee where we considered future appointments to the Court and Committees.
In terms of City functions, there were several very interesting events which I attended. There was an incredibly interesting virtual tour of Spitalfields given by Blue Badge Guide Katie Wignall who took us through the history of this amazing place, from splendid opulence to squalor and then on to street art and today's million pound residences. The area has a fascinating history which was superbly illustrated by Katie.
Another really interesting event was a virtual tour of the Wren Churches in the City given by Lance Whitehouse, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Bakers. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Christopher Wren was instructed to design and rebuild 51 churches in the city. He was later knighted and became the architect who, more than any other, left his mark on the city in a way that has survived more than three centuries.
I also attended a virtual meeting hosted by the Lord Mayor at which we heard several interesting talks on the current position of Livery Halls given by Col. Richard Winstanley OBE, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Drapers; how catering companies are currently managing in the City, given by Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Cooks, Mark Grove; and how Information Technology is enabling us to communicate during lockdown, by Alan Simpson of the Information Technologists Company. Other events I attended included a virtual City Walk, an informative talk on the Treasures and Coat of Arms of the Chartered Accountants' Company and a Climate Action Strategy Livery Seminar arranged by the City Corporation, all very interesting indeed and helping to keep us all connected during these difficult times.