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On Thursday 21th February I was delighted to represent the Company at the Pancake races in Guildhall Yard. Organised by the Poulters’ Company, with gloves from the Glovers’, timekeeping by the Clockmakers’, firing cannon and pistols from the Gunmakers’, and lemons from the Fruiterers’, many Companies are involved.

Running in brick red trousers and a Master’s gown, I competed in the first heat. Despite setting a stonking pace, I somehow managed to lose my chef’s hat, which meant I failed to qualify for the finals. I was somewhat relieved to see I wasn’t the only one, at it was a recurring theme throughout the races!

The high point of the event must be the fancy dress race, which each year brings more extreme and humorous outfits. With the tercentenary of the death of Sir Christopher Wren, there were not one, but two St Paul’s Cathedrals competing, one of which was from the Fuellers’ Company who won the prize for best costume. Another stand-out costume was the pineapple of the Gardeners’ Company, which gained second place. The fancy dress pancake race was won by the Framework Knitters, who also won the Master’s race and the Victor Ludorum – congratulations to them for such a successful showing!

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I am very grateful to Liveryman Michael Ash (right) who donated £250 to the Company’s charitable funds. He encouraged members of the Company who attended the pancake races to wear a feathers in their hat, and to carry an umbrella and a handbag, each item scoring points which contributed to the total - a most amusing and generous idea. Thanks also to Upper Warden Chris Causer who took on the role of Team organizer.

Later that day, the Clerk and I were guests of the Master Apothecary, Dr Jonathan Holiday CVO, former Apothecary to the Royal Household at Windsor, for dinner at Apothecary’s Hall in Black Friars. Set on the site of a Franciscan Monastery, the hall dates to 1672 having been rebuilt immediately after the Great Fire.  It has remaining largely unchanged since and is a wonderful venue. I was honoured to sit next to the Master Apothecary and his Chaplain, the Reverend Mark Jones, who is in his 34th year as an Eton master. The Master Turner, Matthew Gaved and the Clerk to the Turners’ Company, Niall McNaughton, were also present as Company guests. 

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Welcome to the guests was given by Dr Julia Neild, Junior Warden, who educated us on the importance of gardens in the history of the Society, and in particular the Wardian case, an early form of mobile garden allowing transportation of rare species of flora across the globe. The principal guest (seated, left) was Clare Matteson, Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, who spoke of the development of the Society and its current objectives. A wonderful evening which was much enjoyed by myself and the Clerk.

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On 23 February, the Mistress and I attended Worshipful Company of Horners’ Annual Ralph Anderson lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine, Wimpole Street, focussing on the challenge of plastics recycling, and a most enjoyable buffet supper afterwards. Professor Edward Kosior explored how waste management sits at the heart of climate change, with global waste generating more than 1.3 billion tons of CO2e annually. He went on to explain the cutting-edge technologies that are coming on stream to help the world turn plastic waste into a valuable resource. This is a most important area of research, and shows how the Horners’ Company has evolved now that horn products are less crucial in day to day living!

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On 27 February I was delighted to join Freeman Charlotte Pienaar, her family and friends, when she received the Freedom of the City of London. Here we are photographed with Charlotte’s father, Liveryman Ian Wilson and Court Assistant Keith Aldis, both members of our Craft committee. The Chamberlain, Caroline Al-Beyerty, performed the ceremony and then gave us a tour of the Courtroom and its valuable contents.

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After the ceremony at the Chamberlain’s Court, we had wonderful lunch at Sweetings Restaurant. Sweetings specialise in seafood, and it’s a very convenient place to celebrate, being just a few minutes walk from Guildhall. They always greet us like old friends and ply us with excellent food, wine and service, which is much appreciated.

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A couple of days later, the Mistress and I attended a screening of the film “The Duke”, at Cinema 1, The Barbican in support of the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s fund, followed by a Q&A session with the lead actor and directors. The film is based on the true story of the theft of Francisco Goya’s famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in 1961, and the subsequent Old Bailey trial of Kempton Bunton, an out of work cab driver from Newcastle. The trial was so extraordinary it forced the government to change the law. The live Q&A session with lead actor Jim Broadbent, and directors Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, was fascinating. If you haven’t seen the film, I strongly recommend it!

 

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After our Common Hall on 27 January, attended by about 30 members on zoom, the next major event for the Company was the Court and Livery dinner on 2 February. This dinner has been held annually at Cutlers’ Hall for several years, and we were delighted to be back once again. Always a special event, it’s the one occasion in the year where personal guests are not invited, and so represents a very good time to meet Liverymen and Freemen of the company new and old.

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50 members of the Company attended, and we were treated to a demonstration of ale conning by our very own Liveryman and Ale Conner, Christine Rigden. For those unversed in the art, the Ale Connor puts on a pair of leather trousers and determines the quality of the product by sitting on a wooden chair which has been liberally anointed with ale. There are just four Ale Conners appointed in the City, and Christine is the first female Ale Conner in over 700 years. I am pleased to report that our ale passed its test!

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Earlier that day, I was honoured to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Royal Navy, confirming our new affiliation with HMS Magpie. The MOU was co-signed by Lt Cmdr Hywel Morgan, Commanding Officer, who also accepted our invitation to speak after dinner.

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Following the Commanding Officer’s fascinating explanation of the work of the ship and its crew, we exchanged armorial plaques to celebrate our new relationship. The Tylers and Bricklayers armorials will be prominently displayed on board, and I look forward to visiting the ship with a small party of members of the Company later in the year.

Our wonderful meal was prepared by the Cutlers’ Beadle David Hasler and his wife, and I am hugely grateful to them for their hard work. Together with great company and excellent wines, it was a most convivial evening.

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On Thursday 9th February I attended the Worshipful Company of Educators’ Franklin Lecture, given by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli at the Mansion House. This was entitled "Teacher, Tutor, Scholar, I: A metaverse of education or a conundra of confusion" and delivered in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Alderman Nicholas Lyons, and Sheriff Andrew Marsden.

The lecture was wide ranging and gave a fascinating insight to the nature of education of all types, with international comparisons and an emphasis on the role of systems including artificial intelligence.

It was my pleasure to sit next to an old friend, Dominic Price, Headmaster of Merton Court School, who had been helping Michael Mainelli with his research. Our minds loaded with information, we enjoyed a post lecture drinks reception attended by about 200 people including many Educators.

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Then, on Monday 13th February, the Mistress and I attended luncheon with the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Sheriff at Chartered Accountants' Hall, One Moorgate Place. This was a rescheduled event, as the previous dinner had been overshadowed by the sad death of her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Master Chartered Accountant, Richard Green, gave us a warm welcome. Lord Mayor Alderman Nicholas Lyons spoke after lunch giving an insight onto his priorities for the year, and his gruelling international travel plans, having already visited Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and North America as ambassador of the City of London.

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The next day, I was honoured to meet the Lord Mayor again, this time gowned and bejeweled to celebrate the opening of the Commemorative garden for the Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch in Guildhall yard. I was accompanied by Liveryman Diana Malzer, who is organizing our party at the Big Curry Lunch. Chairman of the organizing committee, Mr Michael Hockney (right), welcomed us and introduced His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, who formally declared the garden open.

The garden is bigger and better than ever before. This year’s garden is inspired by the theme of loss, unity and hope was designed by Gianna Utilini on behalf of The Worshipful Company of Gardeners, with the help of the Guild of Freemen, both of which support the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch each year. Once again, the Tylers and Bricklayers will attend the lunch in force, and have donated £1500 to ABF The Soldiers Charity in support the Lifeworks Programme at King Edward VII Hospital. 

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On 16 January, the Mistress and I travelled up to Hereford to participate in the zoom Craft event at Andy Rowlands roofing.

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We were welcomed by Andy Rowlands and his staff and had a very interesting tour of his CORE training facility, the Centre of Roofing Excellence.

At 6pm, we went live on zoom, and I was put through my paces on guessing the country of origin of various roof slates (not as easy as it sounds), nailing battens, and placing and nailing various roof slates and tiles. It brought home to me how skilled roof tilers need to be, and that good tuition and good tools are vital. I am very grateful to Andy Rowlands and his team for their hospitality, and to our cameraman Bob Preston. A one hour video of the event is available on request!

I also want to thank Court Assistant David White, Chairman of the Craft Committee for setting up this event and for championing our new bursary scheme for young craftsmen.

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The day after the zoom Craft event, Helen and I took the opportunity to slip away to Venice for a few days. The highlight of our trip was a private visit to St Mark’s Basilica by night, which was quite spellbinding, and we were also able to have a behind-the-scenes visit to the Doge’s palace.  Venice is largely built of brick, so there is something of interest wherever you look.

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Some outstanding brickwork was on show, including this curved external staircase, known locally as the “snail stairs”.

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Remarkable geometric floors are a common feature in Venice, such as this one in Santa Maria de la Salute.

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Venice is clearly a popular destination at this time of year, and on Sunday 21 January the Mistress and I had dinner with the Master and Mistress Apothecary, Dr Jonathan Holliday and Dr Gwen Lewis (centre), the Master Barber, Dr Mary Heber and her consort Dr Tom Taylor (on the adjacent table just out of view) and several other livery friends. Note the peach Bellini cocktails!