Monday, 28 March 2011

Bad News at Lloyds

It's always bad news at Lloyds, it's what they deal in. As the world's largest insurance market they don't pay out on good news! We had such niceties and much more besides explained to us by an expert guide when 2 parties of Marketors toured the building on Friday. Designed in 1977 it looks as modern today as it did when first opened 25 years ago in 1986. The reason all the services are on the outside of the building is simply, it was explained, so that more space is available inside.A bit like the Pompidou Centre in Paris, another Richard Rogers masterpiece.

Our vist started with a thorough explanation of the history of Lloyds going back to Mr Lloyds coffee shop and on into a description of what Lloyds does. Which is everything from insuring against catastrophes and terrorism to Marine insurance, the foundation of Lloyds originally, and aviation, casualty, property, oil rigs----in fact anything anyone wants to insure including football teams in flight to overseas away games or even ballerina's legs. We then toured the building looking at the boxes from where the underwriting syndicates operate and saw the magnificent treasures presented to Lord Nelson by a grateful Lloyds for keeping the sea routes open, protected, and free for trade.

Finally we saw the famous Lutine bell recovered after the HMS Lutine sank in a heavy gale in the mouth of the Zuider Zee in 1799. It was carrying a great amount of coin and bullion and the loss was underwritten by Lloyds. This is the bell that is only rung when it's very bad news at Lloyds.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lunch Afloat

A fine lunch today at the Honourable Company of Master Mariners' Hall. The only one which is a ship and the only Livery Hall  in Westminster. It is still, however, justifiably a City Livery Hall since the ship's moorings are in the right place!

Welcomed on board by the Master it was gratifying to see that both the Master and the Clerk sported appropriate seafaring beards. Not perhaps in the Captain Birds Eye or John Player class but still good to see nevertheless. With drinks first on the aft deck, suitably covered and with heaters, one could admire the Thames and feel it under one's feet--it was happily not a choppy water day. The ship, whilst the home of the Master Mariners Company is also a museum,with a model room containing a priceless collection of antique model boats. It also houses an impressive library and runs educational maritime courses for children. I could have spent longer wandering around but lunch called.

At lunch I sat opposite the Clerk to the Tallow Chandlers. He told me that they had had only  two clerks (Uncle and Nephew) in 90 years up to 1979. Remarkable but financially ruinous for the Company as neither had any financial sense. Unlike our Clerk who, even with nurturing, may not last 45 years but has a great deal of financial sense. The speaker after an excellent lunch was the Deputy Master of Trinity House who spoke about the different aspects of maintaining safety and security in the seas round this island. This also includes, apparently, moving sunken wrecks where they might endanger shipping. It was a convivial lunch but in conversation it was clear that whilst the Army is suffering significant reductions in funding the Navy is being hit even harder. At least the Master Mariners will stay afloat.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Modern Livery Companies Dinner

An enjoyable occasion twice a year is the Modern Livery Companies' Dinner-one in the Spring, one in the Autumn. A different Company hosts on each occasion. The Marketors will be hosting in Spring 2012. On these occasions Masters are allowed out without their Clerks. Enough said.

 Last night the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants were the hosts at Founders Hall. The Founders (as in Iron Founders) are an ancient Company whose history goes back into the fourteenth century and since then they have had a number of halls but the current one was built in 1987. It is contemporary but very stylish and redolent of their history. This is the Company that for centuries had control over weights and measures until well into Victoria's reign when official authorities took over responsibility for weights and measures.
Modern Companies are so called because they came into being from the twentieth century onwards. After the Fan Makers were granted their Livery in 1809 no new Companies were formed for over a  100 years until the Master Mariners in 1926. There are now 38 'Modern' Livery Companies. 20 of them sat down to dinner last night.

Sitting on the top table I found myself between the Lady Master of the Constructors,  and the Upper Warden of the Chartered Architects. Both are architects and if you think economics is the 'dismal science' it has little on architectural practice in the current recessionary times. More uplifting was the after dinner speaker Alderman David Wootton. But it's tricky speaking to modern Livery Companies as only a very small number of them are directly or indirectly related to that huge engine which drives the square mile -financial services. It was clear from the questions that David Wootton fielded afterwards that modern  Companies, all made up of practising members of their profession, largely non-financial, all supported the City and Mayoralty but felt a little out of the frame because of the overriding importance of financial services as the lifeblood of the City. Something on which the Livery Committee, or higher bodies, might usefully reflect. Particularly as there are more non-financial guilds now moving up to modern Livery status.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Second Day of Lent

The second day of lent was last Thursday and whilst Lent is supposed to be a time of fasting and self denial I confess that on that evening I was eating handsomely as a guest of the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisors at Stationers Hall. They are the nice people who, hopefully, one can turn to to mitigate the predations of HMRC. Getting money back from the Revenue by way of a refund is of course always joyous until you realise it's not a windfall it's your own money you're getting back. Maybe getting money back influenced the design of the Master's badge, pictured below, which shows money tumbling out of a bag, perhaps towards a happy recipient.                             
It was a very full hall with many Masters and other dignitaries all of whom, over 20 in number, the Middle Warden managed to mention individually in a welcome to the guests, in probably not more than 5 minutes. A tour de force I thought. It was to a degree a  female centric event as the Master is a Lady and the Guest Speaker was Dame Barbara Mills QC, probably best known for having been in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service as part of a glittering career. The speeches by both were engaging and thoughtful but I was somewhat stunned to hear expressed the aphorism 'taxation is a matter of law not of morality'. Indeed taxation is a matter of law and there is a clear line between avoidance and evasion. But the suggestion that taxation legislation is completely devoid of any moral dimension is at best disheartening. Admittedly the law makers in Parliament are sullied by the expenses scandal of last year but to suggest that they have no moral compass when making taxation law is a lowering thought.

However on a happier note I leave you with my favourite taxation quotation which should become the recruitment roll call of what is, to us lesser mortals, an arcane profession:

    'The avoidance of taxation is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward'
                                                                                                           John Maynard Keynes

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Third Time Lucky

I don't know if there is an International Men's Day but Tuesday was International Women's Day. Somewhat over-shadowed by it also being Pancake Day, or more correctly Shrove

In 2004 the Poulters Company inaugurated the annual Inter-Livery pancake race which takes place in Guildhall Yard. Each team comprises four entrants--Master; Liveryman; Lady; and Novelty. There are many heats and a final in each category.Traditionally the Gunmakers start each heat and the finals with a bang; the Clockmakers are responsible for the accuracy of the timing; the Glovers provide the white gloves which all competitors must wear; the Musicians sing a specially composed pancake song and the Poulters provide the essential pancake ingredients: the eggs. All competitors must wear a special hat which must not fall off.

The Marketors have a good history in this classically eccentric event with PM Peter Goudge two years ago winning the Wooden Spoon race (not for loser but for Companies who could not get into the main event). Last year Liveryman Simon Campbell-Davies won the Liveryman's race and by great good fortune I was able to make it third time lucky wining this year's Masters' race.

Vociferous support was provided by a band of valiant supporters urging their representatives on. Afterwards there was a delicious buffet lunch and wine in the Guildhall Crypt. We now have an engraved  winner's copper fying pan in our office in Plaisterer's Hall. If you want to see how the race was won see below!


Thursday, 3 March 2011

A Company with a history

If you want to know anything about Snaffles, Pelhams,Curbs, Lip Straps, Gags, Bits or Bitting then the Loriners are your people. There is nothing they don't know about such things and more besides in the world of essential equinine accoutrements. If you have been going long enough you do have a lot of accumulated wisdom. Last night was a major celebration of the Loriners' 750th anniversary. A prodigously old Company with its Ordinances originally granted in 1261. A wonderful service was held in St Pauls, it was that ancient English blending of Compline and Vespers which we call Evensong. The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs with their spouses were there as were the Masters and Clerks of 102 other Livery Companies and a great number of other people. We made a considerable sight proccessing in.

Flicking through the Order of service, as one does, I could see we were due a sermon from the Bishop of London. What on earth, I wondered do you preach on such an occasion. The Bishop took as his theme some of the thoughts of the thirteenth century religious philosopher Thomas Aquinas, the man who tried to square the circle of reason on one hand and faith on the other. I thought he would use one of Thomas Aquinas's famous dictums :'Nothing is, everything is in a state of becoming' (becoming something else that is). It's a simple but profound sentiment well suited to the occasion I thought. But no, the Bishop launched into the three cardinal aspects of man defined by Aquinas : his appetites; his rational self and his spiritual self. These in turn, he explained, needed respectively temperance, prudence and courage. Then came the analogy--these three virtues, just mentioned, should discipline a man's life in the same way that the Loriners products disciplined a horse and enabled the correct direction to be taken. Smooth.

After St Pauls we all went to Stationers Hall for a drinks reception which with 450 people there was very much standing room only.It was rather like being in a theatre crush bar. Which was a great pity since the Master Loriner during the Reception spoke for a few moments and then gave out Awards to the total of £80,000. But so great was the general hub-bub and press of people such munificence was not adequately recognised in my view.
It's nice as a speaker however to be able to say that the Company greatly looks forward to 2061!


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Marketor's Outreach Goes 'Techno'

Last year the Marketors delivered over £420,000 worth of pro bono marketing support and advice to many charities, Educational Organisations and other Livery Companies-as part of our Outreach programme.

One such ongoing project is at Hammersmith Academy, a new school opening in September 2011, jointly funded by the Mercers Company and the Information Technologists (it's a strongly digital based Academy).

A number of Marketors have been involved in the school's marketing and communication plans. The following video, designed for  a youth market, has sound and vision composed and produced by Court Assistant Peter Rees. It announces a video competition with a number of digital video cameras to be won.

Open to all who will be 18 or under on September 1st 2011, it is designed to raise the profile of the school and drive student applicants from the borough.

See the video below--a real example combining the 'ancient and modern' values of the Livery movement

Or for more information visit

Reflections of a former Cabinet Secretary

The annual lecture of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Adminstrators, The Rivers Lecture, was held last night in the magnificent opulence of Drapers Hall. It was a quite excellent occasion.
It was excellent for a number of reasons : a wonderful environment, a brilliant speaker and a very good buffet to finish. Principally however it was the speaker who made the evening : Lord Richard Wilson of Dinton.

Lord Wilson is a distingushed Civil Servant and an Honorary Freeman of the Company. He entered the Civil Service in 1966 and held progressively more senior positions until he rose to become Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service. Such a career, dealing with Cabinet Ministers and P.Ms  Thatcher, Major and Blair provides a rich vein of stories. And did we get them. Not just fascinating insights into the top level of politics and the characters who inhabit that level but jokes and anecdotes galore. To use a vulgar phrase it is true to say he had the audience 'rolling in the aisles'. This man is wasted he could easily be a stand up comedian at the Comedy Store.

And then into dinner. I was seated in the Court dining room which is every bit as grand as the other roms at Drapers Hall. I couldn't help noticing a beautiful fresco on the ceiling of Jason holding aloft the golden fleece whilst his helpmate and wife, Medea, simperingly clings adoringly to him. Here is a small part of the fresco.

Yes, I know, it looks like a dead dog. Why the Drapers would want this picture on the ceiling of their Court dining room who knows, not least because the lower part of the fresco, sadly not shown here,  features the obligatory recling nude lady--very undraped I'd say.