Monday, 30 May 2011

Master's Trip to North Wales

Wales has much to offer and the changes it experiences (Plaid Cymru where are you now that Labour has swept the electoral board) are primarily economic. Which means the old industries, now defunct, have transformed themselves into tourist attractions (well, not sheep farming obviously). The shipping ports are now harbours with yacht clubs; the old slate railways are now narrow gauge tourist train rides; the slate mines are open to visitor 'experiences'; the grand houses, like all stately homes, open to the public.

The 31 Marketors who travelled to North Wales experienced all these things and more. A full write up will appear in the Marketor. The highlights were probably the LLechwedd Slate caverns where the shocking conditions under which men mined for slate is amply demonstrated.; the amazing Rex Whistler mural at Plas Newyydd on Angelsea 58 feet long and one piece of canvas with extraordinary trompe l'oeil effects; and of course Portmerion an astounding village designed and constructed by a man who was not even a qualified architect. Not forgetting Bodnant gardens one of the UK's greatest gardens and at its best in the Spring when the golden cascades of its remarkable 100 yard long laburnam arch can be walked through.

The conviviality and fellowshipwere first class. The card tricks at dinner by Peter Rees magical, and the weather, considering we were in the mountains, not too bad at all. As a taster of what North Wales has to offer all agreed it was a rich and thoroughly enjoyable trip.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The oldest continuous church service in the Anglican Communion

Sorry about the rather less than snappy title here. Last night I was at the 357th Festival of The Sons of the Clergy. Another mouthful. It's a charity founded in the middle of the seventeenth century by a group of sons of clergymen to support the families of members of the clergy who, having remained loyal to to the monarchy during the period under Cromwell, had been deprived of their livings and left destitute. The first Festival in 1655 was the charity's founding event and there's been a Festival every year since then without a break.

The festival is a full on, theatrical, ritualistic church service at St Pauls. It's a BIG event. Over 80 Livery Company Masters and every notable from the Lord Mayor (last night Locum Tenens) and Sheriffs to top brass from the Corporation, the College of Canons, the Dean and Chapter, Aldermen, the Bishop of London and 11 Bishops from throughout the Country, plus in addition to the St Pauls choir, also the choirs of Worcester Cathedral and St Mary's Edinburgh. And the trumpeters of the of the band of the Blues and Royals and more besides. The procession as you may imagine took a long time. St Pauls was full. Defying the dodgy acoustics of St Pauls the combined choir singing a long anthem was a joy. It was a long service but none the worse for that. It was the church of England in its highest gear --subject only of course to Royal Weddings.......but naturally, it was a celebration of its own good works.
The sermon was based (remember this is for a charity) on ministries, whether ministering to the sick or ministering for religious reasons. The common thread was the need to relate to the whole person. For doctors not just to treat the disease but to treat the whole person. For the vicar to minister not just to a person's spitritual needs but to the whole person in his or her own personal context. In our relations with others we should see the whole person. It was put better than this and with typical Welsh eloquence since the preacher was the Archbishop of Wales. From where no doubt my next blog will come.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Support for Barts

Last Wednesday was the annual Livery Masters and Clerks trip into Barts for a charity reception. The Reception was preceded by a choral Evensong in the Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great. The picture above hardly does justice to one of the finest churches in the country. Founded in 1123 as an Augustine Priory it has been in use continuously as a place of worship for over 850 years. The architecture is quite stunning and unsurprisingly the church has been featured in many films. It's a small church left untouched by the Great Fire of London and two world wars. It's a gem and if you have never been there, go.

Interestingly the Rector and choir are placed at the opposite end of the church to the Altar and the preacher preaches from under the organ loft. Quite back to front but due to the layout of this unusual church. The visiting preacher, an Irishman who had undoubtedly kissed the blarney stone amused, informed and asked for support. At the Reception afterwards in the Great Hall of Barts, another gem, sixty Livery Companies were represented and listened to speakers talk about the work of the hospital. It was then possible to have a tour of the hospital and see some of the state of the art equipment now in use. An impressive evening on all fronts.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Wren at his finest

It was a gloriously sunny day last Sunday when thirty two of us , Marketors, family and friends, took a boat from Westminster pier to visit the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich which grew up on the site of the Tudor Palace where Henry v111 and Elizabeth 1 were born. Built in 1695 to house naval pensioners to a Wren design it became the Naval College in 1873, but is now essentially university buildings since the navy left in 1998.

On the boat we were entertained to an amusing chat about the buildings and landmarks on either bank by a crew member, self-admittedly not a qualified guide he was at pains to stress. A point amply demonstrated when he told us on passing the glass building housing the mayor's offices that this was the office building of the Lord Mayor. A mistake our Senior Warden had no problem correcting for him!

After landing we had time for a wander around , in my case to go up to the Observatory to see the Meridian Line and the clock exhibition. Almost a day trip on its own. Then it was time for for a first class lunch, courtesy of Leiths, in the King William Undercroft, an elegant room originally designed as a refectory for the Greenwich pensioners.

We divided into two groups and were taken on a tour of the old college buildings now put to different uses. We saw the remains of the old Greenwich Palace below ground and above ground we saw much including the exquisite chapel, the painted hall and even the old skittle alley (for the amusement for the pensioners to keep them out of the many local pubs we were told). It is little wonder that this is a World Heritage site, it is a great baroque masterpiece. Even Sir Christopher Wren described Greenwich as '' one of the most sublime sights English architecture affords''. He was not wrong. The return trip on the boat ended a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday out.

Thanksgiving and Rededication at St Brides

The annual Thanksgiving and Rededication Service at St Brides is one of the most important events in the Marketors' Calendar. It is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the Company and its aims and values. It is also a quite wonderful but simple church service.

One of the pleasures and privileges of being Master is being able to choose the hymns, the anthem and all of the music for the service. Which I did on the basis of making the very best use of the wonderful choir and choosing hymns which everyone could sing. It was a truly uplifting service.

As is traditional, we then walked part of the parish, on a beautiful sunny evening for a change, beating the bounds with sticks to either the amazement or amusement of passers by. Part of the way round we were royally entertained by the Master of the twelth century Temple church who opened his lovely private garden and generously provided liquid refreshments. The evening comncluded in the Bridewell Institute where 46 of us sat down to a buffet supper during which I was pleased to present, fittingly, a cheque from the Company to Archdeacon David Meara towards the upkeep of St Brides. Our relationship with St Brides is a valued and continuing aspect of the Company and there are plans to enhance further the Rededication service next year

The Entertaining Cleaners

On Monday last I was at the Court and Visiting Masters Luncheon of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners in Armourers Hall. It is a hall I have never eaten in before although I have been inside it, as it is the start point for the Livery Halls Walk which takes place every year. The hall has a magnificent collection of armoury including what is claimed to be the most perfect and complete suit of armour in the country-although probably not the oldest.

The Master of the Environmental Cleaners has only recently been installed and this was his first 'Great Event'. He handled it with aplomb and had the great advantage of knowing that there would be post lunch entertainment-and he didn't have to provide it.

There were 7 Masters of other Companies as guests and after lunch each had to stand and speak for 4 minutes about their Company. Timing was critical since at 3.5 minutes the Clerk to the Company stood up holding a large yellow card with 3.5 written on it in large letters warning the speaker that he has only 30 seconds left. Dead on the 4 minute mark the Clerk stands again with a large red card with 4 written on it whilst simultaneously and loudly 'gonging out' the speaker if he is still speaking. 2 Masters were thus gonged out for not sticking within the allotted 4 minutes and had to sit down before finishing. All, of course, taken in good spirit.

Lunch with the Judges

We have always supported the Sheriffs' and Recorders' Fund and their fund raising events and I was invited last week by Alderman and Sheriff Fiona Woolf to have lunch with the judges at the Old Bailey. Whilst I have ben in, and around, the Old Bailey before (purely as a visitor you understand) as have many, it was quite different to go into the judges' private quarters.

I was in elevated company since the guests in addition to me were Cherie Blair, Lord Goldsmith the Attorney General, Henry Bellingham the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Colonial Office and Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs/Justice and Professor Jeffrey Golden former Chairman of the American Bar Association and visiting professor of law at the LSE. The conversation was animated and interesting and ranged widely. One of the things I learned in answer to my question ''what determines which cases come to the Old Bailey for trial'' is that at the Old Bailey they concentrate on cases against the person, e.g. knife crime; GBH, rape, murder, within the M25 in normal circumstances, outside in exceptional circumstances. Whilst my knowledge of the judiciary has now improved I hope in return that they now have in some small measure a better understanding of what marketing is.

I had to decline the invitation to stay on after lunch and watch a case in court as I had business commitments. Oh, and finally, in answer to the question several people have asked me : do the judges drink at lunch time? The answer is yes but only a very little.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Subalterns Evening

It's been a little while since I last blogged due to an indecently long Easter holiday, taking in the Royal wedding (and what a wedding!) and the resultant backlog of work. I write now about a super evening very generously provided by Freeman Richard Christou, the Business Group Chairman of Fujitsu, and masterminded on the evening by Freeman Simon Carter of Fujitsu in Richard's absence, living as Richard does currently in the Far East. The evening took the form of a Reception and Dinner held in Fujitsu's Baker Street offices

A most beautiful meal was interspersed with extremely interesting talks/presentations. Simon Carter demonstrated the enormously impressive diversity and global each of Fujitu's defence and security resources which are used, particularly the cyber ones, by just about every important Government Department as well as the MOD and firms and governments round the world. It's a firm with 175,000 employees providing solutions in 70 countries.

Simon was followed by a wittily produced presentation by 151 Regiment's RSM Scott Younger. Scott gave an amusingly animated presentation on the logistics needed to keep troops in the battle field supplied with kit, munitions, fuel and infrastructure necessities. Finally we heard from Lt Austin Chamberlain who deployed to Afganistan with 3 Para. We heard at first hand how the propoganda war is being fought and how influence is a tool of war when skillfully used.

All in all a fascinating evening much enjoyed by all present and we are indebted to Fujitsu for their generosity in making the evening possible.