Tonight it was the turn of the Master Builders' Merchant, Dame Fiona Woolf DBE DL, to be installed, and what a grand occasion it was. The celebration dinner was held at the Mansion House, a White Tie event full of pomp and ceremony.

On entering the magnificent colonnaded rooms, Maureen and I were officially greeted by the new Master and Wardens, and were then whisked away by Past Master Builders' Merchant to a special room for visiting Masters and others where we were introduced to several more Liverymen and Past Masters. Following some very interesting conversation accompanied by some wonderful champagne we were called to dinner at 7:30 pm. The Mansion House was magnificently decorated with beautiful flowers and looked quite breathtaking. I recognised many Masters from various Livery Companies taking their seats at the top table. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Immediate Past Master Pippa Latham and Clare Dwyer, wife of Colonel Brennan Dwyer of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, both immensely interesting companions for the evening. Maureen was also very fortunate to be seated between the Master Constructor, The Hon. Sir Vivian Ramsey (whose Installation we had attended two weeks previously) and Andrew Day, Past Master Builders' Merchant.

We dined on Cured Salmon and Quail Egg, Honey Glazed Duck Breast with Confit Leg Samosa and Vegetables, followed by Spiced Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla and Chocolate Sponge and Yuzu Jelly, all accompanied by fine wines and Port, and rounded off with a Martell VS Cognac.

The Ceremony of the Loving Cup followed the loyal and civic toasts given by the new Master. The Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, Alderman Sir Andrew Parmley gave the response and the Junior Warden toasted the guests. The main speaker of the evening was Karen Livingstone, Director of Masterplan & Estate at the Science Museum Group who gave an interesting speech about the work of the Science Museums.

We then had the delight of listening to the wonderful Post Horn Gallop performed very amusingly and masterfully by the London Banqueting Ensemble. To round off the evening the Master invited all guests to join her in a stirrup cup. Another wonderful evening of celebration.

I was very pleased to be invited to join the T&B wine committee for their annual luncheon today. The Company wine committee is comprised of a dedicated group of Liverymen wine connoisseurs who work tirelessly to make sure that the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers consistently provides the best quality wines, champagnes, port and other fine drinks at all of our functions. It is due to their enthusiasm and expertise that the Company has such a good reputation in the City for the superb quality of the wines we serve at our luncheons and dinners.

This year the luncheon was held at the wonderful Tappit Hen Wine Bar and Restaurant, which takes its name from the traditional 2.1 litre Port bottle, and there are references to the building’s rich wine history throughout. We were joined by Francis Flavin, Head of Wholesale at Davey's who helped guide us through the excellent wines offered today. It was a double celebration for Francis today - his birthday and the recent arrival of a new baby daughter, for which hearty congratulations were given by the committee.

The theme for today's luncheon was the 2009 vintage and we were treated to some excellent quality wines that had been sourced by the wine committee members. Examples of the fine wines included a rich Cote Rotie Michel and Stephane Ogier, Rhone Valley, a crisp Sancerre Blanc Francois Cotat and an elegant and pungent Valserrano Gran Reserva Blanco, Rioja. As would be expected, the wines complemented the delicious food perfectly and everyone had a delightful afternoon. I was very grateful to the wine committee members, and especially the chairman, Past Master Philip Parris, for inviting me to share in this great tradition.

Tonight I had the privilege of being entertained by the Chief Royal Engineer, Lt Gen Tyrone Urch CBE and his Officers at the Royal Engineers Headquarters Officers' Mess, Brompton Barracks.

On arrival I was shown to my quarters, which was a beautifully appointed room in the Officers' Mess, good enough to rival any hotel room in which I have stayed! At 18:25hrs sharp I was escorted to pre-dinner drinks in the Brompton Auditorium, hosted by Brigadier Peter Rowell MBE, Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering, where I met fellow guests and Senior Officers from the Corps. We had time for introductions and I was pleased to meet and get to know some wonderful people here. At 19:15hrs we were all escorted to the mess for more drinks before being seated for an excellent 4 course silver service meal accompanied by fine wines.

 

Toasts were made to the Queen and the Heads of State of those represented at the meal. Music was provided by the Countess of Wessex's String Orchestra throughout the evening, which was quite  delightful.

Nearing the end of the proceedings all the Royal Engineer Officers stood and sang the  Corps song, "Hurrah for the CRE", an amusing piece which includes many "oolum das", "ooshta ooshta ooshtas" and "ah ah ahs"!

To mark the end of the proceedings the Chief Royal Engineer led the guests to the ante-room for after dinner drinks and further conversation.

This was a truly inspiring and memorable occasion where we were able to celebrate the wonderful achievements of the Royal Engineers and have the privilege of sharing in their wonderful camaraderie.

Lt Gen Tyrone Urch CBE and Guest

This evening the magnificent Merchant Taylors' Hall was the venue for the Installation of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors, John Woodman Esq. On arrival I was greeted by a wonderful host who accompanied me to the gardens via the receiving line. I was surprised to see that the beautiful gardens were completely covered over with a large semi-permanent Autumn shelter which did an excellent job of keeping us all warm and comfortable. I met several of my colleague Masters, who I am getting to recognise, and was introduced to some of the Liverymen of the Worshipful Company whilst sipping fine champagne.

At 7:30pm we were called in to the splendid hall for dinner, marching in to music by the London Banqueting Ensemble. Following Grace by the Renter Warden we dined on Sea Trout, Avocado and Dill, followed by Grilled Norfolk Supreme of Chicken, with Warm Apple Tartin to finish, a delicious meal accompanied by very good wines.

In time honoured tradition, the Loving Cup Ceremony was performed, much to the delight of all present, after which the Master proposed the toasts. We were very fortunate to have both Sheriffs present, and the Aldermanic Sheriff, Professor Michael Mainelli made an interesting speech and proposed the toast to the Company. The reply was made by Mrs Elizabeth Pearce, CBE, Liveryman.

 

The evening ended with a wonderful Post Horn Gallop performed very amusingly and impeccably by two members of the Ensemble.

Another wonderful evening in great company.

Today Maureen and I were delighted to be guests at the Youthbuild UK Young Builder of the Year Awards held on the beautiful Terrace at the House of Commons, overlooking the Thames, hosted by the Rt Hon Sir John Hayes MP. The awards celebrate the achievements of young, usually socially excluded people, who, despite having to overcome many personal barriers, have succeeded in training for and being employed in the construction industry. Youthbuild UK has been chosen as the Company's Charity of the Year for 2019/20, so this was an extra special occasion for us to celebrate.

On arrival we were greeted by Trustee and Freeman of our Company, Livia Williams, Head of Major and Minor Works for Nottingham City Homes who  is dedicated to supporting the roofing industry at strategic level through the development of apprenticeships, training, management and qualifying the workforce.  Livia introduced us to the Chair of Youthbuild UK, Stephen Ratcliffe and other Trustees and we were privileged to meet some of the finalists. Some of their stories were truly inspiring and we were overwhelmed by the huge effort and dedication all the finalists have shown to achieve their ambitions.

The guest speaker, Michael Volpe, Director General and Founder of Opera Holland Park inspired all present with his own story of how he overcame many barriers in his life to change things and finally achieve his dreams.
The finalists were all deserving of their places at the awards ceremony today and the chairman of the judging panel described how difficult it was to choose winners from the list of brilliant entrants and finalists.

Nick James from Jones Homes North West was chosen as the winner of the 18-24-year-old category and Dylan Connell of Barnardo’s ETS (North) as the winner of the 14-18-year-old category, both truly deserving winners with amazing stories to tell. However, as emphasised by the Chairman and other Trustees, all the finalists were winners today.