Maureen and I were delighted to be invited as guests of The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark, for Christmas drinks at the Deanery. The Deanery is a spectacular house right on the Thames, very close to the Tate Modern, with spectacular views over the river.
All the guests were warmly welcomed with wine and canapés and encouraged to look around the beautiful house and take in the views from the upstairs rooms. It was quite amazing to see St Paul's Cathedral directly opposite and all the other wonderful buildings that make the City of London such a special place.
We met and talked with a number of very interesting guests, both from the local areas and from further afield. It was very interesting to hear different people's links with the Cathedral and how they interact with the Archdiocese.
The Dean gave a short speech about the work of the Cathedral and future plans for the restoration of certain parts, but he emphasised that tonight was not about fund raising, it was about thanking all those who have been supportive of the Cathedral in the past.
Maureen and I were very pleased to enjoy yet another very interesting and joyful evening.
The Chief Commoner, Tom Hoffman OBE, hosted an innovative conference at the Guildhall for sixth form and senior students from the schools in and around City of London. The purpose of the conference was to inspire the students and to make them think about their future career paths by giving them some insight into the workings of the City of London. It was also a valuable opportunity to bring many of them together to mix and get to know each other. There were several hundred students present from many schools in and around the City of London and each table had a senior City representative, including Masters of Livery Companies.
I was surprised and delighted to be invited to sit on the the stage by the Chief Commoner to substitute for the Town Clerk who could not be present this evening. I was introduced to the assembly as a "Town Clerk", the first time this title has been used for my role in local government for many years!
There were presentations to the students from various Directors and Heads of Service of the City, after which there was some lively debate and question and answer sessions. Those on the stage were put on the spot several times by the students with their insightful questions and arguments. We were also given 15 seconds to persuade a Minister to "take some action" over a number of issues that had been highlighted as critical by the students, which was good fun and made us all think quickly on our feet.
After the conference I took the opportunity to chat with some of the students who told me that they felt that it was a useful session which had given them some food for thought and opened their eyes to the many career opportunities available in the City of London and local government more generally. All in all a very interesting and informative conference.
This evening I was invited by the Chief Royal Engineer, Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch CBE, to the Royal Engineers Excellence Awards Dinner at the Institution of Civil Engineers. These awards demonstrate the extent to which Royal Engineers offer the best in engineering expertise, academic excellence, individual endeavour, trade craft and operational success.
I was welcomed by the Lieutenant General and introduced to other members of the Corps, some of whom I had met at Brompton Barracks at a previous event, so it was really nice to catch up with them. Two of the special guests this evening were Julian Fellowes and his wife, Lady Emma Kitchener LVO, the great-great-niece of Lord Kitchener.
Following the reception we marched in to the Great Hall for dinner and the awards ceremony. I was sitting on a table with current serving and retired Royal Engineers who all made me feel very welcome indeed. The evening was very cleverly designed as we had a short break after each course at which several awards were announced. We dined on asparagus wrapped parma ham with a warm poached egg, followed by roast rump of lamb and a selection of canapé desserts, all accompanied by fine wines. It was truly a pleasure to see all ranks of servicemen and servicewomen receive their well deserved awards to rapturous rounds of applause.
Following the awards, the Chief Royal Engineer gave an excellent address and we then proceeded to the Loyal Toast. The evening closed in traditional fashion with every single Royal Engineer present rising and singing their wonderful anthem, "Hurrah for the CRE". Another inspirational evening.
My last event for November was to attend a wonderful Sri Lankan Curry Lunch with a lovely group of fellow Tylers and Bricklayers. This has become a regular event in the diary of the T&Bs, an excellent addition to our events list. The lunch is organised by the City University Club who bring a top chef from Sri Lanka to the UK each year to prepare the amazing food. Sri Lankan curries are quite different from the traditional North Indian and Bangladeshi curries that we have been accustomed to, the flavours being more pungent and aromatic.
A group of 18 very jolly Tylers and Bricklayers and guests turned up for the lunch which was held at the City University Club in Crutched Friars. We were welcomed with a nice cold Cobra beer and wine and settled down to some conversation in the warm and comfortable lounge. At 12:30pm we were taken to a private room that had been set up for our own exclusive use which made it very special for us.
We dined on a huge variety of curries including, cashew nut curry, beef pol kiri, devilled king prawns, tempered dhal curry, pineapple curry and many others, with plenty of accompaniments. All the while we were kept fully supplied with beers and wines.
It was a delight to meet the Chef, Krishna, who works for a very prestigious hotel in Sri Lanka, the Heritance Kandalama. We all thanked him heartily for making such wonderfully tasty food.
This was yet another very pleasant luncheon where we were able to chat amongst friends in a private room and enjoy each other's company, wonderful.
Today Maureen and I attended the mysteriously titled event “A is for Arsenic: the Poisons of Agatha Christie” which was hosted by The Mistress Apothecary. The event was held in the wonderful ancient Apothecaries’ Hall, the oldest extant livery hall in the City of London.
We were welcomed with a glass of bubbly and were given the opportunity to mingle with the other guests during which time we were all allocated to our tables which were, unusually, not numbered, but identified by names of different poisons! Maureen and I were allocated to Morphine table, adjacent to Strychnine, Digitalis and Arsenic! There were small bottles of pills on our tables and some strategically placed chocolates, which nobody dared touch.
All was revealed when our guest speaker was introduced to us – Kathryn Harkup, the author of the book entitled “A is for Arsenic: the poisons of Agatha Christie”. Kathryn gave a fascinating talk about Agatha Christie's life and writings. She had worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, during the second world war, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons which feature in many of her novels. The audience picked up many tips about various poisons and their horrible effects on the human body, possibly not the best way to tempt the appetite before lunch!
Following the interesting talk and questions, we had an excellent luncheon of smoked haddock and spinach florentine with poached hen's egg, chargrilled aubergine paupiettes with puy lentils and rainbow brassica, followed by coffee and petit fours. The food was delicious, but we ate with some trepidation as we found notes scattered about, taken from Agatha Christie's books, such as "Don't eat the Plum Pudding, as one who wishes you well!". To add to the fun of the day each table had a quiz about various poisons to complete and I am happy to report that Morphine Table came a very close second place.
The luncheon was organised to raise money for the Master Apothecary's Fund which supports medical students throughout the UK who are in danger of dropping out of their courses due to extreme financial hardship, a very worthy cause.
We all had a wonderful time at this event and Mistress Apothecary closed proceedings by thanking everyone for attending and paying particular thanks to Kathryn Harkup for her fascinating talk about poisons.