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The start of my sixth month as Master coincided with the beginning of my 69th year - and a rest after the celebrations and events of the previous week.  Normal business returned the following Wednesday, March 20th with a morning meeting of the Trustees of the Fuellers Charitable Trust Fund, to whom I have been an adviser for several years.  The meeting reviewed recent events and considered a number  of applications for grants.  Chloe Andrews-Jones, Past Master and Chair of the Trustees, has reported elsewhere on the activities of the charity and its key  role in the charitable activities the Company supports financially while she and the other trustees organise Fuellers to support by acting as judges, mentors and escorts on visits to our military affiliates and speakers as well as hosting our student prize winners who attend our events.  The charity also makes grants to students and funds the prizes awarded to members of our military affiliates at our annual prize giving lunch at Trinity House.  This year the lunch is on June 3rd and may I encourage you to attend this and the annual Thanksgiving Service that precedes it.

After the meeting several of us adjourned for a jovial lunch in Fleet Street before walking to the Holy Sepulchre for the Fuellers volunteer day to support The Hygiene Bank, with a detour to a local chemist to purchase hygiene products to be donated to families in need in and around the City. We joined my wife Margaret and others at the church and our chaplain, Nick Mottershead, greeted us with a brief but informative introduction to the very active role of the Church in the charity and more generally in the community.  We then spent the afternoon sorting the donated hygiene products into bags to facilitate their distribution to those in need before adjourning to join evensong.  This was rather special as the service was a Joint Choral Evensong with the ‘From Age to Age’ Choir from Minnesota joining the Holy Sepulchre choir. The singing was of a very high order.After the service we enjoyed drinks with Nick, his assistants, both choirs and their accompanying friends and families, and the rest of the congregation. A group of us including Past Masters Jan and Peter Harrison and Chloe Andrews-Jones then adjourned for a relaxing and low-key supper in a local restaurant after a long but very successful and enjoyable day. 

The rest of the week included the first in a series of discussion with Ash, our Junior Warden, who had volunteered to take over the Chair of the Membership Group, which had been continuing to struggle after the pandemic.  We agreed the most urgent need was to overhaul the membership application process.  The results of the overhaul were reported to the Election Court Meeting the following month but suffice it to say that Ash and I are confident that a membership application can now be approved, with the applicant granted the rights and obligations of membership, within a fortnight of the Clerk receiving the completed application form.  As a result we welcomed five new members at the recent Election Court and several more new members are to be welcomed at the Midsummer Court at the Innholder’s Hall in July. A healthy membership is a vital part of the ongoing success of the Company and I encourage you to ask your friends with an interest in energy to consider joining us, perhaps by asking them to attend a Company function or event as your guest.

My next invitation was to the Livery Court Luncheon of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. This was held at Tallow Chandlers Hall on March 25th, the following Monday. For many years we held our Midsummer Court and dinner on HQS Wellington, the Company’s; ‘floating hall’ on the Thames. Old age finally caught up with the vessel so it was good to hear from the Master that a design for a new floating hall (in the form of a floating hotel) has been completed and a mooring identified.  Furthermore £4 million of the estimated £12 million required for the new project has already been raised. 

The luncheon was an impressive event with many Masters, Clerks and Mariners present and an entertaining thanks on behalf of the guests given by the Master of the Worshipful Company of Mercers. One of the advantages of these occasions is to share experiences with other Masters, Wardens and Clerks and thereby learn how other companies, in particular those similar to our own, are dealing with problems that, unsurprisingly, affect many of us.  Learning about the number of solutions being tried and the successes and failures has very much assisted me in carrying out my role as Master, not least when considering plans for our Company’s future.  On this occasion I also learnt that the Master Mariners are the  ‘Honourable’ rather than the ‘Worshipful’ Company as King George V granted this in recognition of the contribution of Merchant Mariners in the Great War.  Furthermore the Company was granted livery status in 1932, which was the first grant of livery since 1746. My final pre-Easter City event was two days later, on March 27th, when the Modern Liveries Company dinner was held at Armourers Hall. The Companies take it in turn to host  the dinner and on this occasion the host was the Worshipful Company of Solicitors of the City of London, a Company I confess to never having joined despite my 35 years as a solicitor in the City.  It was a very pleasant surprise to discover, as I reached the end of the receiving line, that the greeting Master was none other than a former General Counsel and now special adviser to my old firm! She gave a very interesting speech which included an outline of how livery companies can successfully tackle current issues such as equality, diversity and inclusion. 

This dinner is a relatively informal evening which provides an opportunity for Masters to introduce their Senior Wardens to other Masters and Wardens so Elena and I enjoyed the chance to meet quite a few new faces while catching up with many by now old friends and acquaintances. All in all a very pleasant and relaxed occasion – and my last official dinner before the Easter break.  My final pre-Easter duty was on the following morning, Maundy Thursday, when Margaret and I joined David Pugsley, the Master  of the Worshipful Company of Carmen and Sarah Sturrock, his consort, for a food and wine tasting at Mansion House in advance of the Woodmongers dinner, to be held there as a joint event between our two companies the following month.

Four of our five children spent Easter in the USA, where our two eldest sons now work, but we were lucky enough to have our third son, his wife Chloe and daughter Amelia, now almost four months old, to stay with us in Buckinghamshire.  Amelia was a great hit with our two Labradors, with Theia, the youngest, particularly enthusiastic and perhaps just a little too so on occasions!  Other family members and friends also visited , so making an enjoyable break with only a couple of virtual meetings, concerned mainly with membership and other administration issues, interrupting a family fortnight.  Alex, our clerk was also on holiday in Canada and this added to the relative peace and calm, only to be rudely shattered by a long list of inquiries following his return. The main achievement in this break was Ash and my completion of the overhaul of the membership application documentation and process, to which I have already referred.

The return to business as usual was an invite to lunch with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at Chartered Accountants' Hall on April 15th.  This was also the day Margaret was flying to Boston to help look after our grandson (now 18 months) while his mother was on a business trip to the Far East and London.  I set out first thing to collect various presents for the grandson in Aylesbury, only to find the traffic at a standstill due to a combination of HS2 road closures and a serious traffic incident.  The result was that, instead of lunch in the City, I drove Margaret, with presents, to Heathrow where, fortunately, she caught her plane, albeit with little time to spare.

The next day was busy.  First, two group meetings, of the Communications group and the Industry group, the first virtual in the morning and the second in the  late afternoon, courtesy new member Sian Mirshasi, at the splendid offices of his firm Protiviti in the Shard. Before the meeting Sian and his colleagues gave us a fascinating introduction to cyber security, the risks that it poses and some of the strategies available to avoid and/or mitigate the damage that may be caused – as well as some recent examples of security breaches and the consequences. Unfortunately I had to leave early as I was due at the Livery Dinner of the Worshipful Company of Barbers, where I was a guest of the Master.  A remarkable evening followed, not least as three of us on the top table, two Masters (me and my host) and the speaker, shared the same education from age eight through university, a fact which the speaker alluded to in some ‘exaggerated’ reminiscences of our past exploits.  To add to the coincidences, the speaker had recently addressed a Dining Club of which I am the Chair and the Renter Warden of the Barbers, who was seated near me, is a committee member.  The conversation was unsurprisingly wide-ranging and amusing, if possibly a bit noisy and the evening great fun. Sometimes it can seem quite a small world.The next morning, April 17th, Ash, the Junior Warden, and I were at Mansion House for a preliminary meeting following the Company accepting  an invitation from the Lord Mayor to host his Coffee Colloquy concerning Affordable and Clean Energy. These events take place in the morning at Mansion House.  Our role, as the hosts, will be to convene convening speakers and coordinate the audience, with our subject ‘Hydrogen’, the topic of the Lord Mayor’s Ezra lecture in March.  It is likely our Colloquy will be held in October and the date and further details will be circulated in due course.  We have also accepted an invitation to take part in Knowledge Miles, the Lord Mayor’s online webinar series that explores the connections of the Square Mile and its roles as ‘The World's Coffeehouse’. Both have the purpose of promoting knowledge and the institutions within the Square Mile. 

This is all very encouraging as we seek for our Company to become a principal forum for energy relate discussion and information sharing in the City.  We are keen to encourage members to join in our energy related activities, both as contributors and recipients of knowledge, and if this is of interest please contact Jon Clark, the Chair of our Industry group, to discuss when and how you can assist. 

So ended my sixth month. The seventh has already had some highlights, including the visit to the United States Air Force at Mildenhall on a (very rare) dry and warm day in East Anglia, of which more in my next report. Margaret and I are looking forward to greeting our guests for the Master’s weekend on May 17th/19th and delighted that we are close to 50 attendees. Although we can cater for almost any weather, prayers for a dry (i.e. without rain) weekend would be appreciated! 

Future events include a Fuellers Advantage talk on ‘Small Modular Reactors: Hope or Hype?’ the National Liberal Club on May 28th; the Livery engagement day at RAF Brize Norton on May 31st; our annual Thanksgiving Service followed by our Military Affiliates’ prize-giving and lunch at Trinity House on June 3rd; the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham on June 9th; the tour of the Hattingley Valley winery near Basingstoke on June 19th; the tour of Hinkley Point on July 8th; and the visit to the Greatmoor ‘Energy from Waste ‘plant near Aylesbury, now being rescheduled for September. 

Details of all events are circulated by the Clerk well in advance but please save the dates - and I hope very much to be seeing each of you at as many of these events as you can manage!