Monday, 26 July 2010

Signing off for the holiday season

Tomorrow we have our third Great Event of the year, the Lord Mayor's Banquet at Mansion House. I am personally looking forward to it very much.

Afterwards, many members will be going on holiday, although the preparations for our Charter event in October will continue throughout the summer.

If you want some light holiday reading, try C J Sansom's "Dark Fire", a mediaeval murder mystery set entirely in the City of London. I have been intrigued by the 1540 map drawn inside the front cover, showing so many of today's streets with the same names, the Fleet River, Smithfield when it was a field etc. It's one of a series but stands alone if you haven't read the others.

Your correspondent will be back in a few weeks' time.

From the old to the new - Thursday 22nd July

Last night with the Basketmakers, founded 1569. Tonight with the Insurers, founded 1979.

While both displayed the common values of the Livery, at one the conversation was mostly social, at the other there was more discussion of a commercial nature. This illustrates the variety among Livery Companies. One could almost segment them into:
  • the modern companies, almost entirely made up of professionals from the 'trade';
  • the old and wealthy, whose members often join through patrimony, and who spend a great deal of time managing trusts and charitable works;
  • the niche, perhaps with an ancient trade that has no modern equivalent;
  • the ancient but modernised, who have allied themselves to a new, related trade or profession.

The marketers among you will have spotted that I have fallen into the temptation of segmentation by characteristics rather than by need, but it's only a bit of fun!

The Master Insurer, Graeme King, is a Scot so his excellent dinner was rounded off with a poem from the much-ridiculed poet, William McGonagall, and live bagpipe music.

A basketful of jollity - Wednesday 21st July 2010

Tonight I had dinner with the Basketmakers', whose Clerk is our Past Master, Roger de Pilkyngton.
Every Basketmaker is encouraged to make at least one basket before taking the Livery and there was a display of baskets made by their Yeomen members. I was lucky enough to be given one as a gift - most generous.
One Past Prime Warden (Master in basket-speak) introduced himself to me as "An old Basket" which I am sure is a joke with whiskers on, but nonetheless fun to a new hearer. Another assured me that the Company had been banned from the City of London at one point in history because they were suspected, with their bunches of withies, of starting fires.

The evening was memorable, not least because the Beadle asked my permission to use the table beside me on which to rest his block of wood. He gavelled with such energy, that the china and glass jumped and 'chinged' each time in unison, and on one occasion a chip of wood flew off the block. I purloined it (the chip) as a souvenir.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Modern mediaevalism with the Knights Bachelor - Thursday 15th July

This is the Council of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor and, on the right, their breast badge. It is a society committed to upholding the ideals of chivalry and public service. Each year they hold a service in St Faith's Chapel in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral to which Livery Masters and Clerks are invited.

What a privilege. With its low, arched roof the chapel has a distinctly mediaeval feel. The knights parade with their symbolic sword, spurs and pennons (swallow-tailed flags) and the Council in these glorious robes. Cathedral-standard music and a sermon from the Bishop of London about sustainable societies (and bees) made it a real treat for me.

Dazzling Pink - 14th July 2010

A fun trip to "Legally Blonde" at the Savoy Theatre with other Marketors. Jo Edwards organised it with enthusiastic support from theatre buff (and Middle Warden) John Flynn. What a rabbit warren that place is but, despite fires and other historic disasters, still filling the seats every night with this great musical hit.

Pink is the colour - reminds me of my Installation Dinner.

And did you realise that the original Savoy Hotel was built with profits from the theatre, in the days of D'Oyly Carte?

Masters' methadrone - 14th July 2010

Not quite half way through my year but the future already beckons.

In the Livery world, Masters are installed at different times of the year but July is a particularly busy time for handovers from one Master to another. So just as you have got the name right of the person wearing a particular badge, a stranger turns up, saying "I'm Master So and So" and you think to yourself, "No you're not, my friend N is!"

Following the Masters' visit to Ironbridge in June we have formed our year group association for 2009-10 (for all those who are Masters/Upper Bailiff/Prime Wardens in the year of Lord Mayor Nick Anstee). The committee had its first meeting on Tuesday this week to write the constitution and start planning future ways of promoting fellowship among the 100+ likely members.

These associations could be described as the Masters' methadrone - helping reduce withdrawal symptoms of losing office!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Helping ex-Prisoners Monday 12th July 2010

The Clerk, Adele Thorpe, and I attended the AGM of the Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund, a charity based at the Old Bailey set up to provide support to ex-prisoners and their families. It took place in Number One Court and was attended by both Sheriffs, 40+ Livery Company Masters and others from the City who support the charity.

Typically they give small grants of money to pay for retraining, new clothes for someone leaving prison in the same clothes they went in with, tools of their new "straight" trade, basic furniture etc. Last year they made more than 900 small grants and they pride themselves on turning around requests quickly.

Some stories from beneficiaries:

"JH received a grant to purchase a washing machine which has made a big difference to her life. She had previously been doing the washing for her four children and herself in the bath."

"Your generous gift enabled me to replace my lost driving licence and purchase much needed clothes. I have now gained employment and am reintegrating back into mainstream society."

We were privileged to hear the story of one beneficiary who had been in and out of jail on drug-related crimes since the age of 12, was then sent to rehab and has now been clear of drugs and crime for 18 months.

The Marketors' Trust supports this charity as one of its "regulars". I'm glad.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Prize Giving at St Dunstan's College - Thursday 8th July 2010

Much honoured to be the principal guest and speaker at St Dunstan's College end of year prize giving ceremony. Wonderful warm welcome from our own Past Master, Alderman Sir Paul Judge, as Chairman of Governors, and from the headmistress, Mrs Jane Davies.

A large table in front of the Governors laden with books, book tokens, silver cups and military paraphernalia (including our own recently-donated Coxswain's Sword) all to be handed out to bright-eyed and confident young people, achieving across all fields. There are heroes for community service as well as for academic, sporting and musical achievements. A great school serving its pupils well.

Delighted to finish the evening with a tired hand from so much shaking and congratulating!

Engineers' Awards Dinner - Tuesday 6th July 2010

The Worshipful Company of Engineers held their annual awards dinner at Gibson's Hall last week. The hall was constructed as the main banking hall of the Provincial Bank, subsequently National Provincial, National Westminster etc. An amazing piece of extravagant Victoriana with marble columns, domed roofs, elegant plaster and gilt.

Numerous awards were made to civilians and military prizewinners. The citations were humbling - there are so many people doing good things for the world. Deeply impressive.

Financial Services Group gets up steam - Tuesday 6th 2010

Today the Financial Services Group of Livery Companies (now 12 with the International Bankers joining as observers) met with the new Sheriffs-elect to brief them and hear from them about their plans so far for the year ahead. Alderman Fiona Woolf and Richard Sermon both took part and engaged with enthusiasm, following in the footsteps of Alderman Michael Bear, prospective Lord Mayor for next year, whom we met a few weeks ago. It looks like a good year ahead.

The Group also gave its support for and inputs to a draft presentation I am preparing for the course run in September for Court Assistants and Wardens by the Livery Committee. It's intended to help Liverymen understand and champion the "Business City" as well as the "Civic City". Watch this space.

City-Golf Parallels Monday 5th July 2010

Last Monday Michael Harrison and Peter Short delivered a magnificent inter-livery golf day at Verulam Golf Club - home of the Ryder Cup. With 96 people either playing or attending socially, it was a great celebration of fellowship with other livery companies and organisations with whom we have a close relationship, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing and St Dunstan's College.

The analogies between business and sport can be overplayed, with references to teamwork, achieving goals etc. But there seem to be parallels between the City of London and the game of golf.

Compared with other countries, the City has more of a principles-based framework for operations, rather than being rules-based. We all know the importance of integrity and trust e.g. "My word is my bond".

Golf is a self-managing sport. There are no referees. Players are expected to play with honesty and integrity, doing the honourable thing, declaring a penalty against oneself rather than doing what is personally advantageous.

Neither golf nor the City would claim to be perfect but, at their best, both aspire to the same enduring principles.