For many people, the build up to Christmas from Advent until 25 December, with the anticipation of time with family and friends, of giving and receiving presents and of Christmas parties, carols, food and drink, is as enjoyable as Christmas Day itself.  This year, however, the days leading up to Christmas were overshadowed by the rapid spread of the omicron COVID variant and dire warnings from the media of the risk of being stuck in isolation over Christmas or, even worse, another Christmas lockdown.

The Carol service - 16 December 2021

We were due to hold the annual carol service and Christmas supper on Thursday 16 December, preceded by the last Court meeting of the year.  The messages from the Government were confusing and somewhat contradictory:  we should work from home if possible (should we therefore move the Court meeting to Zoom?) but church services and Christmas parties could go ahead without restrictions, other than the wearing of masks in church, except when singing.  On top of this, the Government's scientific advisors gave clear guidance that people should limit social contact to minimise risk.  Against this backdrop, we decided, with a heavy heart, to cancel the Christmas supper but we went ahead with the Court meeting and carol service.

The carol service was as special as always with wonderful singing from the choir and the familiar readings in the beautiful setting of St Margaret Lothbury.  Sadly, there were only about 30 of us in the church as many people made the entirely understandable decision not to travel into London with the risk of catching COVID just over a week before Christmas.  The carol service was also the last occasion when our Honorary Chaplain, John Cook, preached to the Company.  John has been our Honorary Chaplain for more than 20 years and over that time has served us well and faithfully and with great kindness.  John has guided us, instructed us, given comfort and become a good friend to many in the Company.  I was pleased to have the opportunity during the carol service to thank John for his service to the Company and to present him with an inscribed silver dish.  John will remains in the Company as a Liveryman and I hope that we will therefore see John and his wife, Camilla, at Company events and functions for many years to come.

John and Penny Brooks

A few days before Christmas, Past Masters Lesley Day and Michel Saminaden, Upper Warden John Schofield and I visited John and Penny Brooks at home.  We were delighted to find them both fit and well and on good form.  The principal reason for the visit was to present John with an inscribed silver dish and a cheque to mark his retirement last year after 10 years as Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers.  The presentation was long overdue but previous attempts to arrange a date had been thwarted by various lockdowns and medical appointments.  I hope that we will see John and Penny at a Company function in 2022.

The New Year in the Livery world begins with the City New Year service at St Michael Cornhill in early January.  The Government has just announced that no additional Covid restrictions will be introduced in England before New Years Eve and there appears to be some cautious optimism that the NHS will be able to cope with the level of hospital admissions.  Let us hope that this remains the case and we can all look forward to a full calendar of events in the early months of the New Year.

Simon Martin, Master