Friday, 15 April 2011

The Gift of Basketmaking

     Basketmaking is an ancient craft, older even than weaving and pottery. Not so the Basketmakers, they youthfully spring from 1569. When I said at our Spring lunch last week that the basket makers were expelled from the City in the time of Henry the Eighth on account of their negligence, I should perhaps have made clear that this was basket makers in general not The Basketmakers Company who were formed a little later. Anyway I was generously entertained on Wednesday at their Livery Dinner. And a grand occasion it was in Skinners Hall. 

I noticed on the Menu that against the white wine it simply had 'PPW White Wine''. The Basketmakers have a Prime Warden not a Master. ''PPW'' stood for Past Prime Warden. The Past Prime Warden who owns  and runs the vineyard from whence the white wine at dinner came was sitting, coincidentally, next to me. We had an entertaining conversation on the subject and I feel sure, as I have mentioned to him, that our own Past Master John Petersen will, in the fullness of time, provide the Marketors at one dinner or another with wine from his own extensive and immaculate vineyard. 

The speaker was Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court who will be familiar to many as the man who takes applicants through the Freedom of the City ceremony. With such a great variety of different people passing through his office to gain the Freedom he had many stories to tell. I particularly liked the one about Rowan Williams who, when the old right of driving your sheep over London Bridge came up in conversation, remarked that his 'flock' was anyway rather too big for such an event.

The evening passed all too quickly and at the end I was, with other guest Masters, called forward to receive a beautiful gift of a handmade basket from a Yeoman Basketmaker of the Company. No glue, no pins, no trickery, sheer basket making skill; it is indeed a wonderful gift.                                                                    

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