In my last blog, I didn’t mention an extraordinary concert I attended last month at Mercers’ Hall. Each year, the Master Mercer chooses the theme which is closely guarded secret until the night. Last year it was Indian sitar music, and this year it was R & B (rhythm and blues) music. We were treated to a spectacular musical extravaganza from the acclaimed singer Ruby Turner MBE, with lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard player and drummer. I suspect Mercers’ Hall has never looked quite like this before!

Then, on 1 June, the Mistress and I attended the Salters’ Company’s annual lecture at their Hall adjacent to the Barbican. The Salters’ Company is over 600 years old and one of the “Great Twelve” Livery Companies. Their hall is within a unique Brutalist building built in 1976 which is strikingly modern in comparison to many others.

Salters’ Hall is also home to the largest landscaped area created in the Square Mile since the First World War, a delightful garden in which we had a drinks reception prior to the lecture which was given in the Livery hall on the 5th floor. Just outside the Salters’ garden is a huge bronze sculpture of a rather menacing crouching minotaur by Michael Ayrton, a neo-romantic painter who later trained as a sculptor as an assistant to Henry Moore.


This year the Salters’ lecture was delivered by John Simpson CBE, well known BBC World Affairs Editor, overseas correspondent, broadcaster and author. The topic on which he was asked to speak was “Ancient Institutions and Lessons from Current Affairs”, and he started by explaining that his address would be based on his own experiences of Cambridge where he studied, Oxford where he is now a Fellow of Brazenose College, and the BBC which was formed in 1922.

He emphasised the importance of honesty, openness and transparency. After a discussion of freedom of speech and changes in culture over the years, he talked of his experiences meeting and interviewing many world leaders, particularly in recent times Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He described a strictly hierarchical military system in Russia, which combined with a blame culture meant that decision making was often delayed.

During the Q &A session he referred to the US “friendly fire” incident in Iraq in 2003, where 18 people were killed around him including his interpreter. John Simpson is deaf in one ear and has shrapnel left in his “backside” after the incident. Stoically, he explained that the American soldiers were very apologetic afterwards, but these things happen when fighting a war. I was able to chat to John Simpson after his presentation, and he is a delightful character showing no intention of retiring at the age of 78!