Wednesday, 30 June 2010

History and mystery in Guildford, Sunday 27th June 2010

Inviting people to one's home town is a bit like boasting about one's children: others will see them (and it) through very different eyes. So my husband and I were relieved to have a sell-out for our afternoon in Guildford. It was, according to the weathermen, the hottest day of the year yet but, with hats on and water bottles in hand, we accompanied local historian Matthew Alexander on a gentle tour of the historic town.
The photos above show the group in the grounds of the castle (Henry III) and beside a statue of Alice through the Looking Glass, which celebrates the association of Lewis Carroll with the town.
We attended Choral Evensong at Holy Trinity Church (Robert Cotton's sermon addressed directly to the Worshipful Company of Marketors will be available shortly from with the full choir in great voice then had supper in the 17th century surroundings of Abbot's Hospital.
A full report will be in our journal, MARKETOR: suffice it that one visitor said at the end, "I never knew you lived in Paradise!"

A sword presented to St Dunstan's College CCF, Saturday 26th June 2010

I hope to have some "action" pictures from this event before long, but this is how the great hall at St Dunstan's College looked for their Combined Cadet Force dinner last weekend. It is the first opportunity that most of the students have to attend a black tie event and to learn the rules and expected behaviours. (And they more than lived up to expectations.)
It is an occasion for presenting prizes to both the Army and Royal Navy sections. Last year, Liveryman David Williams noticed that the senior Army Cadet was awarded a sword of honour, but that there was no equivalent for the senior Naval Cadet. This year he generously donated his Naval sword, which he bought as a junior officer some (many!) years ago, to be awarded in future to the senior Naval Cadet. The sword was handed from David to me as Master Marketor, then to the Headmistress and finally to the Contingent Commander, acquiring the new name, "The Coxswain's Sword" on the way. Later it was awarded to the first worthy recipient.
We also strengthened our relationship with St Dunstan's CCF by introducing a new award for a cadet instructor, one of the adult officers or warrant officers who give up so much time and energy to training and developing the young cadets. This idea was suggested by the current Lord Mayor and we have happily picked it up. The citation for the inaugural winner was greeted by the cadets with a spontaneous standing ovation and great emotion all round - a popular and deserving choice.

Common Hall - a Liveryman's duty, Thursday 24th June 2010

The Master Constructor, Dr Christine Rigden (about to be re-elected as an Ale Conner for the City) and the Master Information Technologist, Charles Hughes (who has just celebrated the award to his company of their Royal Charter) assembling with all the other Livery Company Masters in the Old Library at Guildhall. We were ordered into line in order of precedence, juniors first, then processed into the main hall where the election of Sheriffs takes place.
This is Common Hall, the meeting of the Livery Companies that takes place typically twice a year, once to elect the Sheriffs and the other time to elect the Lord Mayor. Liverymen are entitled to vote and I would encourage all Liverymen to do this at least once in their life. These elections can be contested, so your vote counts.
It is a splendid ceremonial occasion, memorable for the white gloves worn and the posies carried by the Aldermen, the Lord Mayor's huge black tricorn hat (with feathers to die for, Ladies) and the stentorian tones of the Common Cryer calling us to order and conducting much of the proceedings.
This is also the place where the Livery Committee, an organisation that represents all the Livery Companies, presents a report on its activities, including running various briefings and courses for introducing Freemen and Liverymen to the City .
Alderman Fiona Woolf was elected as only the third woman to be a Sheriff and, as she said, the tallest. She is an international lawyer with specialist expertise in the utilities sector. She is also currently the Mistress Tax Adviser i.e. the Master Tax Adviser's lady.
Richard Sermon was elected as the Lay Sheriff. He is a specialist in financial communications, corporate governance and reputation management (technically, he could be a Marketor). Our Clerk, Adele Thorpe, is one of his team of supporters so we have a personal connection with both Sheriffs for the coming year.

Master taken to the cleaners, Thursday 24th June 2010

Breakfast was offered to Masters and Clerks at the Butchers' Hall this morning, to promote their new catering service. Excellent it was too, and a good start to a long day electing the new Sheriffs and chairing a business court meeting.
At one point however I was thoroughly caught out, telling a story in which the phrase "Taken to the cleaners" featured. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than there was a mock-indignant protest from my right, "I take exception to those words!" by no less than the Master Launderer, Martyn Lewis. Whoops.

Echoes of genius, Tuesday 22nd June 2010

The choir of St Paul's Cathedral performed the Monteverdi Vespers to a full audience as part of the City of London Festival, which runs to 6th August.

Despite being a choral singer, I had never heard this work before but it is full of choral theatre with soloists positioned around the cathedral singing as echoes to a central soloist. Even cleverer, the echoer sings the end of the word previously sung by the main soloist, with a changed meaning. For example the first tenor sings, "Benedicam" (I bless) and the echo sings "Dicam" (I shall tell). Again, the first tenor sings, "Remedium" (to remedy) and the echo sings "Medium" (the mediator). Darned clever.

Monteverdi wrote it in 1610 as a job application for Maestro di Cappella at the Basilica of St Mark's in Venice. No surprises that he was appointed 4 days after the first performance.

Tea with the Queen, Tuesday 22nd June 2010

A quick snap taken on the way out of Buckingham Palace just to show you the hats - it was a very hot day so we were glad of them and the parasol. We had spent the afternoon in the gardens of Buckingham Palace together with about 6,000 others invited for one of HM The Queen's annual garden parties. The gardens are beautiful, with a lake and herbaceous border with blue delphiniums in bloom and everything else about to burst into flower. The roses were just blowing over but still glorious.
Everyone looks wonderful in their best outfits (many of the men looking drop-dead gorgeous in uniforms) and they all have an interesting story to tell, whether they are a Lord Lieutenant or a stalwart of the NHS, high or low, they have all contributed something to the civic life of the country.
The staff had catered for the heat with plentiful supplies of lemon squash from the outset, and iced coffee as an option for tea. There are three large tents serving tea, the Royal Tent identified by the gold crown on top of it. Through-the-line branding was evident in the small gold crowns topping the pieces of chocolate cake. By the end of the afternoon many of the ladies' feet had had enough and we saw some carrying their shoes as they made their way home.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Phew, what a scorcher! Week of 21st June 2010

Not only was last week the hottest of the year climatically, but it was one of the busiest in my year as Master so far, so I shall write up the events over the coming days.

To give you a taster:
Monday - flag-raising for Armed Forces day (see previous post)
Tuesday - garden party at Buckingham Palace followed by a concert at St Paul's Cathedral
Wednesday - meeting with this year's Marketors' committee chairmen to review progress
Thursday - breakfast at Butchers' Hall; election of the new Sheriffs at Guildhall; business court meeting.
Saturday - St Dunstan's College CCF Contingent dinner
Sunday - visit by 38 Marketors to historic Guildford

More in my next, as they say.

Monday, 21 June 2010

A priest in spurs? Monday 21st June 2010

Here we are at Guildhall today for the flagraising ceremony to start the week leading up to Armed Forces Day on Saturday 26th June. In the left hand picture you have the Chairman of our Regimental Liaison and Cadets Committee, Steven Rowe, flanked by Lieutenant Vivian Echeverry, leading four cadets from St Dunstan's College Combined Cadet Force, and Regimental Sergeant Major Scott Younger from 151 (London) Transport Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers). The CCF cadets themselves, who were a credit to their unit, are pictured on the right.
The ceremony was attended by the full Civic Party of the Lord Mayor, both Sheriffs and their ladies, a number of Aldermen and Common Councilmen, representatives from the armed forces, reserves and cadets and their civilian supporters. The sun beamed down on us as prayers were said and the flag raised over Guildhall. (I think I saw the Reverend Dr Bill Beaver wearing spurs under his clerical robes - he has a military history so it's possible.)
In his speech, the Lord Mayor made the point that we have had such a long period of peace in the UK that most people now do not have direct experience of military, naval or air force service. For this reason we need to pay attention to the relationship between the services and civilians and events like this week's help that purpose. We were given a short talk on UK armed forces current operations by Lt Cdr Andy Ingham RN which gave a good overview of our extensive commitments overseas in Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, UN support and counter-piracy activities.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Double duty with the Drapers and Information Technologists, Thursday 17th June 2010

A delightful day visiting Drapers' Hall, with its lovely garden containing mulberry trees - the fruit is used to make the dessert at their Ladies' event in the autumn. The site was originally owned by Thomas Cromwell (if you have read Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" you will know all about Austin Friars) but sold to the Drapers by Henry VIII after Cromwell's downfall.

From there a number of Livery Company Masters walked to St Paul's Cathedral for the start of the Charter celebrations for the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. This is a great day for any company and we were luck enough to sit in the quire stalls (between the altar and the choir singing the Evensong service). Many congratulations to their Master, Charles Hughes, and the Liverymen and Freemen of the WCIT.

Fire! Fire! Wednesday 16th June 2010

Visited the museum of the London Fire Brigade as a guest of the Worshipful Company of Firefighters. First established in about 1830, it grew during the Victorian era into a professional and effective service held in high esteem worldwide. The most famous Chief Fire Officer, Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, was even mentioned in Gilbert & Sullivan's political opera, "Iolanthe".

Most memorable item: the fabulous crested helmets, originally copied from mainland Europe and made out of brass (in the days when most buildings were not electrified). The crests were allegedly to protect the wearer from falling debris, but actually just looked terrific. Even in today's kevlar versions, the trace of a crest can still be seen.

Ironbridge Museums Weekend - a "must visit" place, 11-13th June 2010

Last weekend about 80 livery company Masters and guests, making a total party of about 150, did a whistlestop tour of museums in the Ironbridge Gorge. You must have heard of this place but perhaps don't realise its significance in our industrial history.

This is where, 300 years ago, mass production of iron started. If you have children doing GCSE Chemistry they will have learnt about blast furnaces (limestone, iron ore and coke) and at the Coalbrookdale Museum you can see the real Old Furnace built by Abraham Darby. Originally designed to produce large quantities of cheap cooking pots for the poor (it actually said that in the patent application), this technique crashed through materials science of the day and enabled iron to become the construction and ornamental material of choice.

And that's just the start. Spectacular tiles, pottery and the reconstructed Victorian town of Blists Hill, all faithfully reproduced and peopled by enthusiastic volunteers all itching to engage you in their stories. Don't miss it.

The weekend ended with an agreement to form a Masters' Association for the "class of 2010", as a way of keeping in touch with each other after our years as Masters are over.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Fellowship with the Carmen - 7th June 2010

On Monday this week the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Carmen invited the Masters and Clerks of the livery companies with which they have a close relationship to lunch. The Carmen were originally carriers of goods and were responsible for traffic concepts like one-way streets and taxi ranks. They now have strong links with road haulage and other forms of transport but they still conduct the traditional and picturesque "Cart Marking" ceremony each year in Guildhall Yard (21st July this year).

It took place in the Officers' Mess of the Royal Logistic Corps at Regents' Park Barracks - this was interesting since our "own" 151 (London) Transport Regiment are also part of the RLC.

Interesting snippet of history: traditionally the RLC provides cars and drivers for Royalty whenever they attend military functions, and provide The Queen's Baggage Train for the use of the Sovereign and her guests, especially on State Visits.