Masters’ Activity Report. January /February 2024

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My third month as Master included the Christmas and New Year holidays and as a result family events took The first third of my term as your Master ended on Shrove Tuesday, February 13th, when, slightly against my better judgement, I agreed to join our team for the annual pancake races held at the Guildhall.  Sadly the Senior Warden, who won the ladies race in the previous two years and holds the record, was unavailable but Court Assistant Louise Thompson gallantly volunteered and combined this with joining Past Master Chloe Andrews-Jones in collecting donations from for the Royal National Lifeboats Institution. The other team members were Antony Richards (novelty costume category) and Liveryman Paul Mott, our captain.  

We all dressed in anticipation of a cold and breezy morning only to learn, on arrival, that the races had been cancelled as overnight (and continuing) rain had made the course dangerous. We were instead all photographed in various groups before being ushered into the Guildhall crypt for the alternative ‘competition’ - pancake tossing by the Masters present, all of us in full ceremonial dress (hats, gowns and badges).  I was going well until my pancake missed the pan and landed on the ground…… which was captured on a video taken by my wife that caused much merriment, particularly in the USA when circulated on the extended family What’sApp group. The large crowd meant the crypt was exceedingly warm and it was a relief to be able to return to normal dress for the convivial buffet lunch that followed.  

To return to the beginning, the month started, for me, on January 15th, when I hosted a dinner addressed by Lord Sewell of Sanderstead, the founder of Generating Genius, the charity that encourages and supports young people studying  STEM subjects and of which our charitable fund is a longstanding supporter.  Court Assistants Michael Green and Michael Kennedy joined me and Margaret for what proved to be a lively evening discussing race and related issues in the United Kingdom with a particularly interesting question and answer session.

On January 17th the Entrepreneurs’ Award in Social Innovation (‘EASI’) held a showcase event at Drapers’ Hall. EASI is a joint venture by the Company of Entrepreneurs and the Company of Entrepreneurs Trust to support early-stage UK based entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions to tackle major social and environmental issues.  It was an interesting and well supported evening.  

The following day, January 18th,  a delayed train meant that I had to rush up the stairs of Saddlers’ Hall so that I could join, at the last minute, the procession into the Blacksmiths’ Epiphany Luncheon.  Alex, our clerk, was also attending so our hosts were aware of  my travel problems and had kindly waited for me.  Despite another potentially severe blow to my pretence of a healthy diet, the surroundings and very interesting company and conversation were well worth the risk as I learnt more about the history of coke, its relationship to coal (and thus our Company) and the problems for blacksmiths in the era of net zero.

The following week was quiet and allowed me to catch up on a number of charitable and other activities. On the next Monday,  January 29th, I was back as your Master when I was invited to lunch at the Old Bailey as the guest of the Sheriff,  Dame  Susan Langley DBE.  Lady Hale, the former President of the Supreme Court, was another guest at what was, for a retired lawyer, very much a highlight of the month.  In my 35 years as commercial solicitor my appearances in Court were, perhaps fortunately, very few and it was very interesting to meet with our judges of very serious crimes and discuss the many challenges the criminal justice system faces.  It is particularly disturbing that so many of the defendants at the Old Bailey, all accused of serious crimes of violence, are under 25 and, if guilty, face many years, if not decades. of imprisonment.  I also much enjoyed the opportunity to sit in on a current trial, not least as it made me realise how much technology has increased the availability of evidence, whether through phone records or security cameras, which, while assisting the prosecution and the defence in the search for truth, also increases the time required for trials to be completed.

Later that week, on January 31st, Margaret and I were part of a group of 25 Fuellers on a visit to the Verizon Hub in High Holborn organised by the Industry group. We were treated to presentations and demonstrations of Verizon’s considerable experience and expertise in using and developing 5G communications for processing data in the context of energy and sustainability. It was a very interesting  visit with a number of ‘hands on’ opportunities to try out potential future uses for 5G.  The visit ended with me proposing a vote of thanks to our hosts after which many of those present transferred to a local hostelry where the convivial atmosphere continued for some time…..  A report on the visit is on the Communications Group WhatsApp group and a detailed report will be in the Fueller and posted on the Company website (under News) in due course.

Various conversations and meetings discussing the changes to the e-mail system and the website took place over the first few days of February.  The former had been encountering increasing problems and has now been moved to a different server and this appears, notwithstanding some teething problems, to have resulted in considerable improvement.  The latter is a longer term project now under the supervision of a sub-committee of the Communications Group chaired by Court Assistant Michael Green and including Ash Shastri, our Junior Warden. In the short term efforts are being concentrated on keeping content up to date while at the same time seeking expert advice on overall design and management, not least taking account of the limited resources available, with a view to an overhaul in the next few months - anyone who has capacity to assist is strongly encouraged to contact Michael Green

On February 7th I attended a reception at the Guildhall to celebrate the first anniversary of the City of London Chamber.  We were entertained by suitably supportive speeches by the Lord Mayor Michael Mainelli, Bim Afolami MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the City Minister and Alderman Prem Goyal, the Founding Chair of the Chamber.  There were many familiar faces at what proved to be an informative and optimistic evening.   The weekend followed and then….. pancake day….

March is already proving a busy month, not least with the HMS Sultan visit on March 5th, the Ezra lecture at Imperial College on March 13th and the Fuellers Charity Volunteer Day a week later, 3pm at the Holy Sepulchre on March 20th. Other dates for your diary include the Election Court meeting followed by the Woodmongers dinner, a joint event with the Worshipful Company of Carmen at Mansion House, on April 22nd, my Master’s Weekend in Buckinghamshire on May 17th/19th (please let us know if you are planning to join us – all welcome), our annual thanksgiving service followed by our Affiliates’ prize-giving and lunch at trinity House on June 3rd, the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham on June 9th, a tour of the Hattingley Valley winery near Basingstoke on June 19th, the tour of Hinkley Point on July 8th and a visit to the Greatmoor ‘Energy from Waste ‘plant near Aylesbury on July 16th. Details of the events in June and July will be circulated by the Clerk during next month but please save the dates - and I hope very much to be seeing all of you at as many of these events as you can manage!