May 19, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
I have been trying to get to the Wynkyn de Worde Society quarterly lunch all year and finally made it today, albeit with the need to leave around 2.15pm to catch a train to Sheffield, more of which later.
The Society was founded in 1957 and named after the man of the same name who was a member of our Company and a journeyman of William Caxton. He is depicted in the bottom left hand corner of our Caxton window inking a block.After Caxton's death he was the first printer to set up in Fleet Street. The Society promotes the printed word in a most elegant and convivial manner and delightfully meets at our Hall. There were many Liverymen there as members and we had our first drink of the summer in the garden before lunch. All too soon it was time to leave with the Clerk, happily after the Loyal Toast but sadly before hearing from their speaker Jonathan Meades, who was to read from his forthcoming book 'Authorised: an encyclopedia of myself'. I shall have to ask someone who was there what it was all about.
So to Sheffield for the 377th Cutlers' Feast as guests of The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire in the County of York - no less. Founded in 1624 the Company operates like a Livery Company regulating its trade and binding apprentices but I gained the impression that it was operating today more like a Chamber of Commerce for the City. The Hall is vast and consists of cavernous rooms, most decorated by our friends the Victorians, I suspect, but parts do date back to the seventeenth century. Three hundred people dined and there was room for more in the Great Hall. The spouses of the guests that were invited were hived off to another event in another hall in the building and charmingly were ushered back in to a gallery to hear the speeches. Lovely custom but how much longer will it go on? Another interesting fact, proudly remarked on my the Master, was that this is the only 'white tie' event still held north of London. I am unable to comment except to say, 'why'?
Four after dinner speeches was frankly enough and two could have been axed without loss to the audience. The principle guest was Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, a son of Sheffield. Now he is undoubtedly a fine policeman (if 'Plebgate' does not do for him) but in thanking the Sheffield Junior Chamber of Commerce for honing his public speaking skills as a young detective, a neighbour muttered, 'pity he did not take the Senior Chamber course'! Very jolly company at table including Master Pewterer and a local Labour M.P., who was very good company and took the gentle leg pulling about the political classes very well and was highly illuminating about a few matters, that I had better not reveal here.I did particularly warm to her when she said she was a fan of Freeman William Hague.
After a few night caps in good company to bed for a prompt start of a tour of the City. We went first to have a tour of the Sheffield theatres, The Lyceum (a traditional proscenium arch auditorium) and next door the 1971 built, Crucible, with a thrust stage and World famous for hosting the World Snooker Championship, when they lower the stage by nearly two metres. All very impressive with lots going on at prices that are highly competitive and the local subsidy is very small. They have just been awarded 'Regional Theatre of the Year'.
We were then bussed to an engineering works called AESSEAL that make seals (surprisingly) for industry. Where ever there is a join in a pipe there has to been a sealed joint and this firm is the fourth largest in the World. I have not been in an engineering factory for some time but my memories of oily dirty floors and dark spaces were banished here. Spotless light work spaces, lean manufacturing, computer controlled machine tools and a dedicated and happy work force. We were encouraged to speak with them which is alwaya a good sign. There is no doubt that a few more firms like this will help turn our fortunes round in the UK. My only sadness was that AESSEAL is still a private company and so I could not buy shares.
I had to duck lunch back at Cutlers' Hall as I had a private engagement in the evening to get back for but it was in spite of that a most entertaining and informative visit which I greatly enjoyed.
May 19, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
After a very relaxing week in the Loire but in a rather tired chateau with indifferent plumbing, I could not face Sunday night away from the the comforts of home for those of the Master's Flat. I therefore joined the commuters this morning for 28 minutes of 'sardinery'. I treated myself to a first class ticket but still had to stand, although I insisted in the First Class carriage!
It was the May Master and Warden's Committee and after admitting two new Freemen we got down to a packed agenda. I think I must be getting 'demob happy' as I allowed discussions to run over by 10 minutes and that after postponing one topic until the next meeting. We were joined at lunch by Glyn Farrow, who is the CE of the St Brides' Foundation that runs the famous printing library. Very interesting discussions and we shall be visiting him soon to see if there are ways in which we can cooperate to our mutual benefit. It seems amazing that we haven't done so before. The other guest was 'our own, our very own' (as they say at his beloved Players' Theatre), Keith Hutton. Keith has been a huge supporter of the Company in so many ways since he became a liveryman 38 years ago. He has edited 'Stationers' News' and been the director of a number of theatrical events at the Hall including the 600th anniversary of the Guild and the 450th Anniversary of the Charter, to name but a few I think I appeared in both and the memory of the sagging tights still haunts me! I invited him as a way of saying thank you for all he does for the Company. We do not do enough in my view to acknowledge the hard and often taken for granted work that is done by the few to make our Company great. I hope those that follow will carry this on.
Just a short update on the Academy project. Our partners are still looking after two possibles did not work out for very good reasons. We must be patient as we strive to find the right school in the right place and I am sure the wait will be fully justified. We already have pledges and funds totalling 20% of our five year target and we have not asked for a penny yet, which bodes very well for the fundraising.
May 12, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
The final event of the week was rather special. To Goldsmith's Hall to witness the conclusion of the Trial of the Pyx. This event dates back to 1282 and is the formal procedure to check the coinage of the Realm to insure they are of the correct weight, diameter and composition as required by law. Samples of all the UK coinage are examined by a jury comprised of qualified members of the Goldsmith's Company and in the presence of the Queen's Remembrancer (the lawyer to the Crown) and the Master of the Mint (aka The Chancellor of the Exchequer). I do not think the latter sat through the long process which must have taken all morning, but he did ship up with the rest of us to hear the result and of course in true City style, have lunch! The said Mint Master did speak after lunch but a week later nothing was particularly memorable except he did make a weak joke about UKIP who had caused a major upset the day before gaining 25% of the popular vote. I want to like him but he is a man 'not comfortable in his own skin'. Let's hope he does not have Gordon Brown ambitions!
I was delighted to find myself sitting next to our old friend, the former Dean of St Paul's, The Right Reverend Grahame Knowles. He, you will recall, felt obliged to resign nobily after the Tent occupation. His new role is to be the Registrar of the Corporation of Sons of the Clergy, effectively a livery company for those of the cloth. I am pleased to report he is in good form now although he has had rather a tough period readjusting to a new life.
As we were off to France early the next morning I did not linger and made a dash for Waterloo and the packing. Farewell for 7 days.
May 03, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
The day of the Charter Dinner dawned. Great excitement and activity at Stationers' Hall as everything was readied for the second of our great dinners in the Company Year. I don't suppose many think about the work that goes in to making a grand dinner run smoothly but it is enormous. The table plan, a logistic feat it it's own right is carefully crafted with guests requests catered for. 'Left hand sprig, near the top table, Caxton Window facing and nowhere near 'Blogs', no shell fish' is a not unusual request. Flowers, place settings (the best in the City), menu's and what goes on in the kitchen from dawn I can only imagine.
I ran through my speech a few times, took a long walk getting my hair cut on the way and felt very guilty not helping to set the tables. We had a few people up for drinks in the flat and then down to the receiving line. I like this a lot as I don't have to remember names as the toastmaster calls them out and I have the right balance now between welcoming people and not lingering in conversation keep those behind waiting for their champagne. Our principal guest was Lord Black (no not Conrad, Guy) although our Lord Black did say in his outstanding address that he was once introduced by a student at Cambridge who had looked up his CV in Wikipedia incorrectly and there was a deathly silence for a few moments, when he reached the end and said 'Lord Black is currently serving a seven year term in Canada for fraud'. I was overjoyed to present the Paper Industry Gold Medal to Court Assistant Nick Steidl who has done so much for the paper industry and now our Foundation.
The evening was judged an outstanding success (well no one has written to me except in glowing terms) and I have thanked the whole team for their work. I have one thought piece to end this. There are 550 liverymen in our Company and this dinner is to celebrate the granting of our Charter in 1557 and our links with our industries. We entertain the leaders of all the main Trade Associations and Liverymen are invited to bring guests. The Hall holds 200 (and nearly did that night) but why are we not five times oversubscribed for the event? I do not understand why people are Liverymen if they do not attend this dinner. Happy to receive answers, anyway you want to send them.
May 02, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Off to present the prizes at the Stationers' Golf Day at the very smart (but not OTT) Woking Golf Club. Mrs Dewey drove me as I was to go on to the City for dinner and I knew timings would be tight so I planned to take the train. The Club is protected by a very serious unmanned security gate but with easy pedestrian access. So Tony started turning round when we we accosted by a rather fierce looking lady in golf attire and an ample bosom. Very imperiously she said 'Can I help you' barring the way with her size 10's and a trolley laden with clubs, all with rather lovely knitted bobble hats on them. Get the picture? In a friendly manner I explained my business and she said 'Well I suppose you had better come in then' clearly meaning I was anything but welcome. I heard about the fierce ladies of Woking later and if we need to invade Afghanistan again, recruitment should start in the Ladies Locker Room at Woking - please!!
Now, I have been to a few of these things before and in the absence of instructions to the contrary I had donned 'smart casual' with jacket but no tie. Who should accost me within seconds of arriving that Court Assistant David Allan, who regular readers will know, is rather hot on dress standards. He is a member of the Club and has no doubt been trained by the Amazon Ladies. 'Improperly dressed again Master' he intoned to his great delight. Whilst he went off chuckling, the ever kind David Houseman (or Bingo as I know him) rustled up a tie which whilst not a perfect match for my Ralph Loren preppy look, at least satisfied the purists. Now I was bidden for 2 pm for lunch and arrived at 1.30 pm to chat to the players as they finished their rounds Past Master Straker was there unable to play as he had been bitten by his dog.
As 2.30 pm arrived and no sign of lunch I started to get slightly concerned about being on parade on time in the evening. Suddenly it all came together and an excellent lunch was had and I presented the prizes. Bingo won the plate and another old friend Liveryman Ron Ingarfied came second. Other people were eliminated due to too high handicaps and the colour of their golf shoes apparently. I returned the tie and hitched a lift with 'Thrush' (as he is called at Woking apparently - he is more of a Lesser Spotted Warbler to me) Allan to the station.
A fairly quick turnaround into DJ, with tie, and off to the Marketors' Spring Dinner at the sublime Apothecaries Hall. Get there if you have not been, quite stunning. I missed their annual service at St Brides due to the slowness of the golfers and was gently admonished by our mutual and beloved Chaplain, David Meara. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Master, the ebullient Sally Muggeridge (niece of Malcolm Muggeridge who the over 60's will remember as something of a 'tele-personality' on chat panels in the 70's and 80's.. The response on behalf of the guests was given by the Marketing Director of Google. Very interesting stuff and I hope to have gained her agreement to speak at the DMG. A couple of interesting facts I noted for your enjoyment. If you stretched the data Google handles Worldwide every day in a binary line it would reach the moon and back 27 times! Reeling from that, we check our mobile devices on average 150 times a day! Now that was worth ploughing through all these rambling for wasn't it?
April 30, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
A rather special evening at the Hall which we gave the use of to the Lord Mayor' Appeal. Tony and I were paying guests at a concert given by Opera Holland Park in aid of the Lord Mayor's charities. Sadly, the Lord Mayor was in Angola but we had the delight of welcoming the Lady Mayoress and the two Sheriffs to a packed Hall. I must confess to not being an opera buff. My problem is not the music, some of which is sublime, but that I have to suspend reality to follow the usually rather lumpy plots and characters played by people whose bodies do not match the part! It must be the actor in me coming out!
Anyway no problem with that last night as we had performances of many famous arias by the very talented members of the Company.The Hall looked magnificent with the stage under the Caxton window and our famous acoustics did not let us down in a packed Hall of 250 people. The redoubtable Terry Shapland in red braces, lit the stage beautifully and Ron and his team handled the logistics with smooth precision.
My only concern was for the windows when the magnificent Welsh soprano, Elin Pritchard, hit the top notes in 'Sempre Libera' from La Traviata, I am sure I saw the Caxton window vibrate! Glorious stuff and a night to remember.
April 22, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Treats normally come in small parcels but this one came in a weekend starting at London City Airport. 22 members of the Court their spouses and 'support team' went to Antwerp for the weekend. A more detailed report will be included in 'The Stationer' penned by the learned Professor Tim Connell but, if I may I would like to record a few high and slightly low but funny notes of the joyful experience.
This is the first time the Court has had a trip for many years. I think the last one was when Past Master Michael Pelham lead a group to South Africa in the early 'noughties'. I was keen to repeat the experience but in these straighted times I felt a nearer destination would be sensible and discussions with the Chairman of LivCom came up with Antwerp where there is a World Class museum of print and it's products. Dear Deborah was our tour leader and kept us well advised of the programme as it evolved.
It really was a very happy group that gathered at the airport to make the short hop to Antwerp in an aeroplane with propellers.Someone had jumped on the line at East Croydon and it was a close run thing for the Upper Warden to check in on time, but he made it, having detoured around south London. During conversation I discovered that I had not read my itinerary properly and we were bidden to dinner in suits and ties on Saturday evening and I had packed neither. No one seemed concerned except David Allan but I resolved to try and buy a suit to make him happy.
Slight consternation ensued when the Captain announced that the plane was too heavy to clear Canary Wharf and David Allan suggested that I should get off! In fact two staff members and their luggage were, I think the expression is, 'deplaned' and all was well but some delay was caused whilst this was negotiated and executed. On arrival we were to be met by a coach to take us to our hotel. Much telephoning by our leader revealed that the coach had been and gone. Our party stood in an empty airport for some little time before he could be persuaded to return. Finally he did and off to the Hilton to excellent accommodation in the heart of the City. David Allan failed to get the lift to ascend after four attempts with his key card but we were at least able to enjoy the ribaldry of the remainder of the party who kept seeing us as the doors reopened each time. Somebody sensible took over as the queue was lengthening.
In the evening we went to an outstanding restaurant where we had a tour of the wine cellar, even Trevor Fenwick seemed impressed, and took champagne there before moving to our private room for an excellent dinner. During the evening Helen Esmonde turned to Tony (my wife for new readers) and asked in her most delightfully earnest voice..'Tony, are you fascinated by print'? Now Tony has probably thought as much about print as I have about Gordon Brown returning to No 10, but she was able to reply 'actually Helen I am rather new to it'. Collapse of stout party! Wonderful evening in a lovely ancient town house as well. If you are ever in Antwerp do eat at Huis de Colvenier.
The next morning we went to The Museum Plantin-Moretus which for anyone with an interest in print and books, must be seen. We were given a demonstration of early printing although as the demonstrator, a lovely old chap, was showing us how to pick and lay type in a stick, I did see Gerald Hill itching to take over and speed the process up as a more recent letterpress printer. Did you know the pads used to ink the type were covered in dog skin as it has no pores to absorb the ink to give an even coverage? More from 'Brains Connell' but a fascinating visit. Do go.
A free afternoon was to be followed by a 'Gala Dinner' at the hotel in another private room. Never too sure what that is but we all had a wonderful evening, except for David Allan who was given an alternative starter (not his choice but they 'ran out' of the praline of smoked salmon) which did not agree with him. I think the management must have felt his lift activities deserved punishment, poor man. Could a 'Gala Dinner' be an occasion when everyone wears suits do you think? I tried, hoping to find one in a charity shop, they do not exist seemingly or C & A (remember them) made preferably of nylon or crimplene. None to be found sadly.
Our last treat was to go to the Ruben's Museum on Sunday morning, sadly without the said Allan, David. Luckily we had the joy of Gillian's company. Another beautiful house, this time where Ruben's worked and lived. I was hoping to see some Rubenesque figures but they must have been in his later period or so expensive that the museum has not been able to afford them.
More coach troubles when the driver announced he was taking us to Brussels Airport but we arrived early at the correct one to have a light lunch in probably the best Airport airport meal I have ever had. Freshly made salads and bread were outstanding. The Belgian's do know how to cook and even Mr Allan perked up a little and had an extra bottle of water!
Huge fun, very interesting and a great opportunity for us to get to know each other better. Thank you Deborah, assisted by Mike and Thelma for making such an event possible. Next year the Upper is going to take us to Germany, it is rumoured. Packing my suit and tie already!
April 22, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Each year the Lord Mayor hosts something called 'The Big Curry Lunch' at Guildhall to support ABF - The Soldiers' Charity. A very big function that raises at least £200,000 each year for the very worthy charity. As a supporting Livery the Clerk and I were invited early to meet the Patron, HRH The Duke of Kent, KG and the Lord Mayor. We were corralled into the Old Library, drink-less, where we chatted to the other Master's and Clerk's present for over an hour in the increasingly hot and airless room. Finally a RSM arrived to line us up to be presented. Now I have spoken before about the Livery 'pecking order' and so it was with some surprise that we noted we were being lined up in alphabetical order. 'Good', I thought, 'at least the Actuaries (91) and Air Pilots (81) will get a look in but how will the Mercers and Vintners react'! Well there's a thing, none of the 'Great Twelve' were there, they must have had prior notice!
Finally, we were all in place and then waited another 45 minutes for the grand arrival. Progress down the line to 'S' was very slow and I even sneaked out for a drink(!). When HRH reached the Pewterers, a bagpiper let out a screeching moan (I don't like bag pipes) and HRH and party veered off to have their curry in another place! Your Master was not amused after waiting two hours and having spent some money on the Silent Auction and paid for lunch, I suggested to the Clerk that we made our excuses and went off for a quiet lunch elsewhere as we could see huge queues for a dollop of curry on a paper plate! Great Charity, but if I was next man in I would send the money and not go...The Great Twelve had probably worked that out!
There was one bright spot in my morning. I went over to have a word with David Ison, our charming neighbour and the Dean of St Paul's. We were having a nice chat about how well the Thatcher Funeral had gone when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a clergyman in military uniform had approached us. I assumed that David knew him so introduced myself by just by name, David did the same, both of us in a very friendly manner I thought. The 'chaplain' responded by saying (rather formally) 'I am the General Chaplain Commandant of the British Army and what do you do?' David got back first and in his gentle manner said 'I am the Dean of St Paul's'! ! I don't know who out ranks whom in this, but I would have thought that the General Chaplain Commandant might have recognised the Dean of St Paul's after at least two internationally televised services since he became Dean last year, if nothing else.
On to the National Association of Paper Merchants 93rd Annual Dinner. I am a Past President so was among friends and had a very enjoyable evening.Both industry speeches were excellent and they had a very amusing speaker to follow who was Geoff Miller the very dry and witty National Selector for the England Cricket Board. The day finished much better than it started!
April 18, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Today's programme was to start at the Hall at 0930 for coffee prior to watching Baroness Thatcher's funeral procession up Ludgate Hill. As it happens to be my birthday, Mrs Dewey baulked at me leaving at 0730 as I am not due to see her again until Friday morning and she wanted, quite reasonably to give me my presents and cards and give me a birthday breakfast! So having enjoyed that treat I arrived at the Hall at around 1030. Amazing crowds even in 8 wide ranks into the centre of our courtyard to get a minor glimpse of the cortège passing at the bottom of the passage onto Ludgate Hill. I am not too fond of crowds so had a coffee in the Hall and then we watched the service on a huge screen put up in the Hall. It was, almost as good as being there and we had the crowd noises and bells live to add to the atmosphere. It was not only the Chancellor who was moved, not least at the outstanding sermon of Bishop Richard.
A jolly lunch was laid on and your Master committed a small sin. It was free seating so when I saw a reserved table I assumed it was for me so a gang of us sat there. It had in fact been reserved for Liveryman Eric Davis and his fellow Wandsmen from St Paul's who were to arrive a little later. A table was found for them but they had to mix in a bit and one of them, not Eric, pointed put my error rather sternly! Anyway all was well and the Clerk lead the assembled company in a quite respectable rendition of Happy Birthday, which I greatly appreciated.
Small footnote to this, the irrepressible, Paddy Belton told me that he has become a DJ on something called Vibe FM 107.6 and has his own show on Sunday between 9 and 11 pm. He accepts requests so do tune in!
On to the Scriveners' Spring Dinner at Vintners' Hall for a jolly evening with their charmingly eccentric Master, Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld Bt. His day job is Norroy and Ulster King of Arms at the College of Arms. He, in his witty rather rambling speech was advertising their Court weekend at his stately pile in Norfolk, which he said he has given to the National Trust "to pay for the roof"! Total one upmanship prevailed when he said that accommodation at the local Bedingfeld Arms was now full but he had arranged another local hostelry for the overflow.
I sat next to two ladies, much to the Clerk's chagrin. One was the delightful wife of the principal guest Field Marshall Lord Guthrie, who was engaging company and much travelled as you can imagine. If that was not enough of a 'Birthday Bonus' on my other side I had the delight of meeting the first lady to captain a Royal Navy warship. On the day when we said goodbye to a formidable lady from Lincolnshire, I sat next to another one. However, formidable she must be to have made her way to be CO of a ship, she was also charming, delightful and if I may say so, delicious company. Watch out for Commander Sarah West RN. I feel First Sea Lord will only be a step on the way! I am afraid Sir Henry was a bit miffed at the Stirrup Cup as he felt I had rather monopolised her. Probably had, but it was my birthday!
April 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Overnight at the flat to be woken around 5.30 am by the sound of marching and orders being yelled. Very inconsiderate I thought, until I saw the news to discover it was a rehearsal for the funeral of Baroness Thatcher. I hope they did not wake up the Dean and Chapter, who are clearly struggling with their moral compasses over the event! That must be why St Paul's Churchyard is being turned into a TV studio complete with the construction of a huge black (they think of everything) broadcast studio on legs right in front of M&S and Starbucks!
The monthly MWC took place this morning and we covered everything from Company merchandise (watch out for Stationers' Golf Umbrellas) to the price of event tickets and the admission of 3 new excellent Freemen plus very important discussions on a new committee to support the proposed school, Hall development ideas and the appointment of Renter Wardens for the coming year. We even discussed a paper proposing that we take part in a future Lord Mayor's Show. Lots as always going on and with a much stronger, focused committee structure we should be able to achieve more of our strategic plans as we move forward. Our Company is in very good shape and I applaud the marvellous work being done by so many to make it even more so in the future.
The traditional luncheon followed and we had a heady and eclectic mix of guests to share the excellent fare. Each was a guest of a Court Assistant or Past Master and they are invited for a purpose. It might be membership or to assist us in our work or to thank them for their help. One guest was the Assistant Clerk of the Haberdashers who is responsible for their eleven schools where they field 50 (yes 50) Governors from their Livery and the schools are all over the country. He was and will be very helpful as we move forward. We had a director of Paperchase the highly respected retail stationer, who we hope might be interested in membership, two academics from the worlds of advertising and the media and from Business and Linguistics who contributed greatly to our conversations. In addition we invited Liveryman David Holland who has been one of our sponsors for the Shine awards.
Whilst we were lunching the evening event, 'Exploring Archives' was being built up around us in the the Anti Room. Excellent displays of material from our archives particularly focusing on Past Master John Murray (a noted publisher in the 18th Century), and this linked with exhibitions from the archives from the National Library of Scotland (that holds the Murray extensive archive) and the Royal Geographic Society, of which he was a Fellow. If that was not enough we had some fascinating material to see from the Royal Marines Museum on Exploration, a passion of Murray's. Three excellent speakers form each institution gave us some background to the displays and we had a full Hall to enjoy the event. The catalogue was a work of art in it's own right!
Two new membership enquiries have already come out of the evening and also an expression of interest from the British Library (no less) to see if our Wiltshire Barn Project can help them with re-binding books that they previous had done at Remploy, which is now closed. The Company and Court at its best and well done Library & Archive Committee and the Hall team. I did also see two Past Masters noting that in the 19th Century there was a 'Wardens and Past Masters Room in the Hall and speculating why it had been lost and indeed where it was? A question perhaps to be expected at the next Court!
April 14, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
A rather special treat this evening when Tony and I went to the Royal Albert Hall, as guests of the Royal Marines, to attend the 'Mountbatten Festival of Music'. VIP seats in the Royal Box and some very interesting guests from the other services and MoD. I hope the security was good as there were some very senior people there!
I spoke to one man, very very high up in the defence of our realm. I said 'how do you cope with all the changes that our political system place upon you'. 'Change is easy' he said 'we are very good at that, what we seek is a strategy to work towards, which we rarely get'. I don't think I should tell you anymore and I suppose if I did I would be in breach of the Official Secret Act and be sent to the Tower and I am so looking forward to this coming week!
What a musical treat. Do not think that the massed bands of the Royal Marines are just good at precision marching, drumming and beating the retreat and playing Colonel Bogey. These people are real musicians and we had everything from Slavonic Rhapsodies to Queen, with Elvis and the Andrews Sisters in between, plus some precision marching and drumming of course. The evening is held every year in aid of the RM Charitable Trust and a childrens charity. Well worth attending and supporting in future years and by the way Upper Warden, next year is the 350th Anniversary of the formation of the RM's so get 15 March in your diary now, not to be missed.
April 14, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
An invitation this evening by our Treasurer, the redoubtable Tom Corrigan, to attend the Court & Livery Dinner of the Company of Makers of Playing Cards at Carpenters' Hall, as his personal guest. I am very fond of Carpenters' Hall, lots of super joinery, unsurprisingly and the building has a good ambiance. I saw a few lost sheep' from the Stationers' who hold, like Tom, membership of both Liveries. Tom, by the way is also a Marketor and has been Master of all three! Excellent dinner and delightful company next to Tom and the Senior Warden, who like most members of the Company, unlike Tom who did make playing card board at Inveresk, had nothing to do with the product.
It was a close run thing to decide the winner of the 'Who looks more like Grandad in Only Fools and Horses' look alike competition between the Master and the Beadle! The Master, Rev'd Canpn Nigel Nicholson, turned out to be the incumbent of my old parish at Shackleford before Rev'd. Canon John Fellows, who is preaching for me at the Richard Johnson Service, so we had plenty of mutual friends to discuss.The Beadle, who won my competition, is an old sailor, who not only looked like Grandpa but sounded like a caricature of him, wonderful! He retired that evening and his swansong apologising for his bossiness was a great lesson in how to bow out gracefully.
Sadly the MPC, not natural chanteurs, had a song which starts off
'Here's to St Georges name. It burns a flame'
All very patriotic but.......why do they suffer and ask their guests to endure it as well?
Very jolly evening and a quite long brisk walk home, again past St. Paul's where something is definitely stirring. Huge trucks parked outside and more police around than we see in Guildford in a year. Something to do with Whitsun perhaps?
April 11, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
You know the lot of a Master is not easy.! To insure the highest quality food and wine, before each major dinner the Master, Wardens, Clerk and Chairman of the Wine Committee have to taste the proposed menu and agree the wine accompaniment. This as you can imagine is taxing and today we met, sans sadly the Upper, to perform this necessary task for the Charter. Not booked yet, you will be missing a gastronomic treat as we finally reached agreement. Look out for the Alsace Riesling with the asparagus - sublime. Book now or weep!
A brisk walk around the City to prepare for the next onslaught on my digestive system, the Chancellor of City University's Dinner at the Mansion House. The Chancellor, as I have already told you, do try and keep up, is The Lord Mayor, but this is a major event to promote the work of City University, to thank for and to encourage presumably, support. We supported City last year with three post graduate bursaries to fund fees for three graduates taking their Master's in Electronic Publishing, Magazine Journalism and Publishing Studies.
Now I know a regular reader has strong connections with City and the following comments are largely for him to provide feed back, if he wishes, but they do illustrate how it is so easy to miss great opportunities. When we hold dinners the principal guests, after they have been greeted by the Master and Wardens, are hosted by a senior member who have been briefed with their guests CV. They are carefully seated with people likely to be of interest to them. Last evening after being cordially received by The Lord Mayor and the Vice Chancellor I was left to my own devices and so I gravitated to people I knew who were Livery Masters. When we sat down I found that I was seated with Livery Master's plus the Registrar who was pleasant company but did not seem to be on a particular mission nor know too much about us. Shame to waste the opportunity of talking about the connections between us and the future.
Anyway had a jolly evening with the Master Needlemakers, a very well connected Scot, the Master Tin Plate Worker, a keen rugger man and the Master Fueller, a fine wit, not forgetting out host who keeps the University records! Walked back in the pouring rain, part way with the Master Mercer, no less, to get the feeling that something big is happening in and around St Paul's soon. Lights on in the Cathedral at 11 pm, barriers erected and measurable police and worker presence doing things at that time of night. I expect I will hear what it is soon!
April 11, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Before today's Court meeting we had a short rehearsal for the Court Assistant Admission Ceremony to be held later to welcome Martin Woodhead onto the Court. These normally take place only once a year but due to illness we had a second chance to get it really right and I think the participants made a reasonable fist of it.
Chairing a Court meeting can be tricky! The Court, our top committee, has the power to say nay or yea to anything and has before it normally about an inch of papers including the minutes of the Master and Wardens Committee to question and approve. The Court at full strength is some thirty strong and includes a goodly sprinkling of Past Master's who have, as they say, 'worn the tee shirt' ! Any attempt to push something through meets with fierce resistance and many are skilled in the art of lobbing hand grenades into topics with which they disagree hoping to garner support to kill it. All good stuff, if you are a democrat but hard work to chair, get the business concluded and finish at the appointed hour. There have been times (not many) when I have had sympathy for 'Wee John' in that other place under Big Ben. Today was however a breeze, we completed our business in good time and heart, rejoicing at the report that unasked, a small number of Court Assistant's had started the Academy fundraising appeal to the tune of nearly £100,000 to prime the pump. This will give the fundraisers some breathing space to launch the appeal safe in the knowledge that they have the first years target banked. A sincere think you to all concerned and the wish from me that other Court members will show similar leadership to make their pledges or donations as quickly as possible.
On to dinner where we were joined by recently cloathed new Liverymen and their guests together with guests of Court Assistants. Always a happy occasion and this one proved to be no different. For some reason the Clerk sees me as the Company salesman and I am often challenged to sit with someone when a deal needs closing. Beware if you find yourself sitting next to me before July! It was a huge pleasure to sit next to Paul Musgrove and very close to his charming wife Serena, although Mike James, who separated us, did make conversation with her quite difficult, the bounder! Paul was fascinating company. He is the son of a Leicestershire miner and suffers from acute dyslexia, completely unable to read or write but has been blessed with a fine mind and is highly numerate. Somehow he managed to wangle his way onto the renowned Mars Management Training programme and from there found his way into Office Products. He works closely with Serena who puts the word into his life and they together have built a partnership of independent office products dealers which is shortly to be launched in the US.
The Musgrove's have been considering Corporate Membership and I was delighted to hear that it was a matter not of if but when. They wanted to secure a new Marketing Director and to close their US deal before announcing their new association with us. I had not quite given up on my challenge but felt that this was probably as good as it would get for the evening. Paul's phone went with a text to say the chosen candidate for the job had accepted. There was divine intervention so with Mr James pushing from the other side we proceeded to close. Now the Musgrove's did not get to where they are today without bargaining skills. They both agreed to join us but there was a condition. They asked if I would attend their Dealer Conference in Birmingham in June. Attempts to suggest that I rarely venture north of Marble Arch fell on stoney ground and so, dear reader, diary permitting I am going to Birmingham! Our nineteenth CM has arrived and I will get to see the Bull Ring!
March 27, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Regular readers will know that the Master gets to some very interesting places but today, for me, matched most of them. I and Nick Steidl, journeyed to a trading estate in Northampton to visit Corporate Member PaperlinX. Now for those who do not know, I spent my working life in the paper industry and still have wood pulp running through my veins, so the chance to visit a major distributor of paper was as exciting as having lunch with the judges at the Bailey! Sad, isn't it?
Our host was Dave Allen, who is the CEO of the Group listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with distribution operations stretching from New Zealand to the UK. Dave has worked for the Group for 7 years and has been Group CEO since last Autumn and very generously gave us a presentation and a tour of the most impressive site, much changed since my last visit probably 20 years ago.
The story of PaperlinX is fascinating and almost a business text book case of over gearing and steps to recovery. To cut a very long story short the Group was originally called Australia Pulp and Paper and was the major producer of paper in Australia and NZ. It became 'fashionable' in the late 80's and 90's for mills to acquire distribution businesses (I was a beneficiary of this largess). APP went on a huge World wide buying spree, heavily gearing up in the process whist still developing their capacity for manufacture on their home turf. In the UK they acquired the well known brands of Robert Horne, Howard Smith Papers and Bunzl (later renamed The Paper Company). Sadly for them the Australian Dollar became very strong following the minerals bonanza and their Continents proximity to low cost paper producers in Indonesia and latterly China, meant that making paper in Australia became totally uncompetitive. The decision was taken to close the mills (one that had not even come on stream) at a huge cost to their balance sheet and to concentrate on distribution. The profitable distribution companies were 'plundered' for cash and realisable assets to exit manufacture. With huge misfortune whilst this was being digested the long predicted down turn in consumption of paper started and so profits were hit in the merchants and a number went into loss. The best way to illustrate all this is to say that the PaperlinX share price fell 98% in 4 years.
Radical surgery has been necessary and loss making businesses have been sold and costs cut dramatically. Today the Group is confidently predicting a break even in 2014 and is developing new markets to replace the lower consumption of paper grades. We were shown the range of plastics and packaging materials that now account for 20% of the Group's UK sales. The site at Northampton houses the finance, procurement and HR functions for the UK businesses and the National Sales Centre for the Robert Horne business. When I was trading they had probably 40 stock holding sales branches throughout the UK with central stock held at Northampton. This is now down to a handful of branches in major centres and all sales routed through the huge call centre I saw, complete with flashing screens showing calls handled and progress towards the daily target per regional team. About 1500 tonnes of material are sold per day from this site which is around 75 large lorry loads, so a very busy place.
I could have stayed all day chatting to Dave and his colleagues, some of whom amazingly remembered me, but Dave is a man on a mission and after lunch in their excellent staff resturant we bade our grateful farewells and thanks not only for the visit but the support that they give the Company. Their generosity at a time that has been very difficult for them is characteristic of the business that I have known since the 1960's and which made them a great and highly respected business, which it still is and it will only get better with the plan they have for the future.
Happy Easter and I hope the Clerk enjoys his first drink since Ash Wednesday!
March 23, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
When I took over the flat last July, I found in the dressing table an envelope, with instructions, in the well known to me, handwriting of Past Master Patrick Shorten, that the tie within was to be worn by The Master at Old Stationers' Association functions. Now, I live in fear of arriving at something improperly dressed, so I dutifully donned said tie and went downstairs for the said OSA Annual Dinner this evening, slightly wondering what to expect.
The Stock Room was full of gentlemen, of a certain age, actually give or take about mine, all dressed in sober suits, with two exceptions, all sporting the OSA tie. The two exceptions were the Clerk, in, if I am not mistaken, his regimental tie and the President, the genial Tony Moffat, resplendent in a blazer two sizes too large for him, with what I described later in my speech as an ice cream salesman's stripes! I felt immediately at home, aided by a number of familiar faces of some of our Livery. I did remark to the Clerk during the evening that everyone seemed to be of a homogeneous style. Not surprising I suppose as they were educated together in a selective grammar school and clearly hugely enjoy each others company. The OSA are quite an organisation, considering that they have had no 'fresh blood' for 30 years.They have 503 members, with plenty more from the more recent years still to find.. They run sports teams, share reminiscences on line and even have a fantasy football game! Football seems rather important and being a North London school, Spurs and the Hammers seem to feature quite highly in conversation and humour. It was a delight to be in their company and they obviously have a huge interest in and respect for our Company. 'May the hinges of friendship never rust'!
The toast to the Company and the OSA was wittily given by Freeman Dr Bob Harris, who as a statistician managed to loose a simple cardboard chopper and rugby man, with a deep insight into the relative success of Arsenal, in average score stats over the years. I think he postulated the theory that they were more successful than Manchester United, but I may be wrong!
I had a gift of a speaking job, as the audience were clearly most interested to have an update on our academy project. Clearly a successful outcome of this will be an injection of new members, but I did warn them that we would be seeking to turn round not a school in the leafy suburbs but an inner city borough and they had already worked out that they may have to amend their constitution (and humour) as ladies could be knocking on their door! I am delighted to report that none of this phased them and suggestions that we could name the new school houses after the original ones brought warm applause. I outlined how they could help and of course OSA members are already engaged with the project on the Fund Raising Committee and they have a representative on the Court in the Lord Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten. Afterwards I was approached by a number of members offering their support, including one, who asked me how much he should give! The OSA will be a tremendous supporter and partner in this project and I rejoice that we have access to this fine institution.
The President gave a warm and thoughtful response and ended his speech by installing the new President, David Sheath (a retired Headmaster) and settling him in to that blazer, which fitted him rather well! The OB's mostly high tailed it down to The Cockpit but I found a taxi and headed home after a delightful and encouraging evening and the end of another week. Next week being Easter, is quite quiet, but I will be visiting a Corporate Member in Northampton, so you will have something to read before Easter!!
March 20, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
I don't want to be over dramatic (why break the habits of a lifetime, I hear you cry!) but Monday 18 March 2013 was a Red Letter Day in the history of the Company.
At the MWC meeting we ratified the excellent work of the Working Party, already mentioned, to craft an agreement with our chosen partner to support an Academy school. Our partner is the highly regarded Leigh Academies Trust, an educational charity that is already running five very successful schools in north Kent. After the meeting we met with them and signed a contract to support them in finding, turning round and supporting a failing school which will be located somewhere in south London within easy reach of central London. Our role will be to provide governors and educational support by providing specialist equipment to support a curriculum that will encompass subjects that will equip the students for a career in one of our trades or industries.We will also be looking for members to be mentors, offer work experience and talk to the students about their experiences in their working lives. We will also establish a fund to support the Head in supporting underprivileged students in the pursuit of their studies. There will be much more news on this to follow but we hope that after the 30 years that has elapsed since the old Stationers' School had to close in Hornsey, that we will, maybe by this September, have another school that can be proudly named, but still to be finalised, The Stationers' Company Academy. I think that is quite historic, don't you?
After the lunch I joined the final event held under the auspices of the Freeman's Association which has now been merged into the Livery Committee.I was presented by their outgoing Chairman a magnificent book, 'Survey of London 1633' by John Stow which had been supurbly restored and will be placed in the Library to mark the work of the Association over the years. We now have one 'sports and social club' and for the first time Freeman are represented on the Court and the events programme of the Company can be fully coordinated. I paid tribute in my short speech to the work of the Association and in particular the officers who have done a tremendous job in insuring Freemen had a voice and events for them. The voice has just got louder and the events will just get better. I think this is quite historic too.
If all that was not enough, in the evening the Industry Group held the Annual Livery Lecture which was given this year by Liveryman Sir David Bell, entitled 'Why Newspapers Matter'. Sir David, who was an assessor at the Leveson Inquiry and has had a lifetime in journalism and publication management, gave a thoughtful, insightful and illuminating paper against the background of the parliamentary debate to legislate changes in the way the press is regulated, that was taking place as he spoke. As much of the main thrust of this had been revealed earlier in the day he was able to comment, from his unique position, on his reaction to the proposals. What were they? You should have been there if you do not know. Suffice to say there is much water to flow under the Fleet river bridge before we have heard the last of this very difficult matter. I would like to think that historians will look at Sir David's text to help with their interpretation of this sea change to the way we regulate journalism and if you were there, you were part of the history.
I was quite tired when everyone went home but very very happy to have played a small part in this very special day.
March 17, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
The day started rather well, at 8.30 there was a knock on the flat door just as we were getting ready to go out to find some breakfast. It was Sue asking if we were going to attend the Chester Boyd (our caterer's if you did not know) 30th Birthday Breakfast in the Court Room. Somehow this invitation had passed me by, but we made the 'effort' and were treated to a champagne breakfast of the highest quality. Happy Birthday Chester Boyd and congratulations not only on your birthday but in the recent granting of a Royal Warrant. I thought the sandwiches were rather good at the Palace Garden Party.
The United Guilds Service is perhaps the only time in the year that the whole City livery movement is together under one roof. If you have not been before, do apply for tickets (which are sadly limited, so keep trying if you are unlucky) as it is a magnificent occasion. The usual pecking order is followed of course for seating and only the 'top 24' get to process in with the Lord Mayor and clergy, but they do make a splendid sight. We, as 47, get reasonable seats but the poor old Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers (No 107) probably need periscopes! Interestingly the lesson, read by the Lord Mayor, was the parable of the vineyard owner who hired people during a day to get the harvest in and then paid everyone the same daily rate irrespective of the hours worked. Often called the 'last will be first and the first will be last' parable. If I was Lord Mayor I would turn round the order of precedence for one year, just so the new Liveries could get a look in. No benefit for the Stationers in the middle, but I would love to see the rather grand Great 12 being last for once! Will you vote for me?
Back to the Hall, for lunch shared with thirteen other Liveries. Always a very jolly occasion with plenty of friendly banter. The Cooper's, were there and their Master was to respond to my welcome on behalf of the (paying) guests. I did report earlier of a splendid dinner at Cooper's Hall when the genial Master decided to don a fez and tell Tommy Cooper stories. I thought it would be friendly to return the compliment so with the help of Giles, obtained a fez and told one in my speech. It seemed to go down well and after lunch Master Cooper rose. Somehow during the lunch he had managed to obtain some 'Red Nose Day' head gear and proceed to upstage me by wearing it throughout his generous speech of thanks. What a great fellowship we are, I rejoice! Terrible journey home by car and a couple of days to get ready for the next week, including a very big day on Monday. More to follow, if you are still with me?
March 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
I met with Tony in the West End for some inexpensive retail therapy (we could not find what we were looking for) and then some lunch with my youngest daughter who was also in the area. Thence to the Hall to prepare for a white tie dinner at the Mansion House to 'meet the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress (who I had already met twice during the week!). The dinner was for the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff (all the same thing just different titles) and their spouses on the eve of the United Guilds Service.
A very grand occasion as you can imagine. The stairs were lined with Pikemen and Riflemen from the HAC and the line up to meet the hosts was very long. Slightly to Tony's concern, we were not sitting together but she more than survived with excellent company. I had the Shrivel Sheriff Jeffrey Evans, who hosted me at the Old Bailey, and the Master Fruiterer, a new one as they change in January, plus the wife of the Master Upholder, a Paediatric Nurse and now Deputy Head of a Academy Primary School in Hampton, near the Children's Hospice where I serve as a Trustee. An eclectic mix and the evening just sped by. The food was excellent and the caterers were none other than our own.
The Master Mercer and the Master Grocer proposed toast to the Lord Mayor and Corporation. The Master Mercer made an appeal for the Livery to get more involved with the politics of the City as there is a concern that factions of outsiders with party political ambitions (the City has been governed by non party political independents) are gaining ground as it is proving difficult to recruit sufficient high calibre candidates to the Court of Common Council. This seems rather important to me and as land and property owners in the Square Mile we should be more active in this area. Speak to the Clerk if you would like to know more and have the interest in preserving the unique nature of the City.
I phoned for a taxi to take us back to the Hall but whilst waiting (and waiting) we started chatting to one of the Mansion House staff. He asked me which Company I came from and when I told him he wanted me to see a picture of him and our own Sir Clive Martin, who he was so obviously fond of. 'Cancel your taxi sir' he said. 'I will send you back in the Mansion House taxi, it will not be needed for a little while'. So, we were whisked back in some style to the Hall with appreciation again for the life and times of Sir Clive!
March 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
The Worshipful Company of Vintners received its first Royal Charter in 1363 and thus this year marks the 650th anniversary. They celebrated this by inviting hundreds of their closest friends, including the Clerk, me and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, to Evensong at St Paul's. A lovely service with all the trimmings that only a great cathedral can provide with the sermon preached by the best (other than our Chaplain of course), Richard Chartris, the Bishop of London. Historical, factual, witty, illuminating and with a Christian message woven throughout. A masterpiece, that must have taken 15 hours to prepare, 15 minutes to deliver but it felt like less than 5 minutes listening time. The man is brilliant!
Thence to the very new and modern style Grange St Paul's Hotel just behind the City Visitor Bureau for a reception. Lots of friendly faces to talk with (I think I am really getting to know many of the other Master's now) and of course the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. I did go over to congratulate Michael Cox, the Master Vintner. He was standing with a smallish gentleman, who I did not know. I greeted Michael warmly and started to make my congratulations when he said 'Oh Master, do you know the Duke of Gloucester? I, of course, did not and had broken protocol by not acknowledging him first! I felt the tumbrels rolling from the Tower, but he was most charming and even remarked how much he had enjoyed visiting Stationers Hall for an event. Look him up and I challenge you to say you would have recognised him!
Other than my faux pas, the reception was memorable for the champagne, not my favouite drink, but it was there! The bottles were not in evidence but if it was not vintage I would be astonished! A short glide back to the Hall via Marks and Spencer for a very light supper product to be consumed alone in the flat.
March 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Whilst my fun started today, I would wish to record that on 11 March the Working Party set up by the Court to finalise the Memorandum of Understanding between us and our chosen partner in the school venture, met to finalise our offer to proceed. The group was chaired by the IPM and included the Treasurer, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Foundation plus the Clerk. They reached agreement to my great delight and after a final meeting on 21 March with the Leigh Academies Trust, full agreement was reached, which has now been ratified by the LAT trustees. The documents will be signed after the formal agreement of the MWC on Monday 18 March. The whole Company should be grateful to the Working Party for bringing this to a satisfactory conclusion and the way is now clear for us and our new partner to bid for a suitable school. Much more on this will follow and whilst this is the first chapter, I want to record that this position has been reached after 2 years of very hard and dedicated work by our Foundation trustees and the skills of our negotiation team. Thank you all.
I made my second visit to the Haberdashers' Company this evening (why I am so blessed I do not know) and so I will not bore you again with a description of their very modern and grand Hall, except to say I was shown their Luncheon Room which I had not seen before. It is wood panelled in the style of their old Court Room that was flattened by the Luftwaffe and it has quite beautiful carvings decorating the panels and over the superb fireplace is a detailed painting of the City after the Second World War air raids. It shows very clearly that most of the devastation was to the north of St Paul's, hence our good fortune being west of the Cathedral.
The Clerk, who has forsworn alcohol for lent, recoiled in horror, when I passed him a glass of champagne at the reception, forgetting his vow. He actually had it to his lips but I am sure not a cc passed further as he swapped it for orange juice. His face was a picture!
The Lord Mayor was guest of honour, my first of three meetings with him during the week, and his jaunty and polished speech went down very well. I was surrounded, as usual, by interesting people but could not persuade the lovely lady next to me to curtsy on passing the loving cup!
March 08, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Tonight the invitation was to the Glass Sellers Court and Livery Dinner at the grand Vintners' Hall. The Clerk and I were cordially received by a Company well known at Stationers' Hall as they are regular users. The Company celebrates its 350th anniversary next year having received its Charter in 1664 and is 71st in precedence. It has good links with the glass trade still although most of its members are not connected.
I sat next to two quite different people. On my left was the principle speaker, a clergyman who runs a parish in Canning Town, one of the most deprived areas in the UK but located just 3 miles from where we were dining in style. The Glass Sellers' support a parish worker who assists in the social work of the parish. In addition the church worships in what is effectively the school hall of a Primary school run by the parish as an academy. This school faces huge problems with language, social skills, poverty and lack of parental support. It has just been inspected by OFSTED and has been recognised as 'outstanding'. So was the clergyman and obviously his team of Governors. Inspirational and I have his card and an open invitation to visit to see how they do it.
On my other side was a formidable lady who in under two years if elected will be the Master. Driven is the word and amongst other things she told me what an excellent speaker she was and of her many triumphs in business. Providing she does not 'kill' too many people on the way, I think she may be heading for Lord Mayor! Given all this, I was charmed that when the Loving Cup came round, instead of a bow, I received a curtesy, another unique experience.
March 08, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Hidden behind the rather dull Liverpool Street area of the City is the sublime Coopers' Hall. A lovely Georgian facade but behind is a building dating back to 1684. It is a town house of perfect proportions and internal spaces and furnishings that I could easily live with if it were mine. The occasion was the Coopers, Masters' and Clerks' Dinner. A small intimate affair with only 32 diners as that is the maximum their Hall will hold, it being a house. It was none the worse for that and I had a splendid evening.
Now, what do Coopers make? No not barrels, that is a size (36 gallons) of, the correct answer, casks. Not too many coopers in the Coopers, 3 out of 240 but they maintain good links with anything to do with casks and what goes in them as well as sponsoring three schools and sheltered housing in the East End from whence their craft originated. I was also interested to learn that due to their Hall no spouses are ever invited and most Liverymen might get the right to attend a function every other year! More blessings for Stationers!
The Master, a charming and genial man, spoke well but had been persuaded to tell two Tommy Cooper jokes which he did resplendent in a fez! Now of course there is a name connection and maybe he does them well at dinner parties but, as they say, 'it's the way you tell them' and especially with Mr Cooper, who is only about timing. It spectacularly did not work but the livery spirit won through and he was applauded for effort.
Our very own Clive Martin (a neighbour of the Master) was the guest speaker who seemed to make a few jottings on the back of his menu during dinner and then proceeded to deliver a polished, witty and fact filled speech. Little wonder he became Lord Mayor.
I must make particular mention of the food. The Coopers use Chester Boyd as caterers and Karen was the chef. Quite outstanding beef and a dessert that I normally avoid but could not when in error it was placed before me. Watch out for 'The Great British Apple' on our menu. One of the best evenings of the year, so far!
March 05, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
To the flat on Sunday evening to prepare for a rather important Court meeting today. For some reason my iPad was not receiving e mails to my normal address and so I was unable to read another batch from Court Assistant's with their views on the topic of the day, the Academy. Frankly, just as well as I would have had no sleep at all, thinking about how best to chair the meeting and get a positive result without splitting the Court.
A detailed pack of information had been sent to the Assistants and most unfortunately the draft agreement originally sent had to be changed as the Chairman and CEO of our chosen partner,had been on holiday until Tuesday and our revisions were not agreed prior to our mailing. They pushed back on a few critical matters and that naturally gave rise to some concerns. I was not only concerned about a split but also that the whole matter would be referred back to the MWC and then the Court causing severe delay. Our partners have a school in their sights will need very shortly to make a bid which will be enormously enhanced by our partnership with them.
My other concern was me! I am passionate about this project for a number of reasons and whilst I am not so 'gung ho' to support it at any cost or risk to the Company and Foundation, I knew that I had to chair this meeting in a balanced manner and to allow those who had concerns have full vent to their opinions and this included those who were not there who had written in with their views that had to be expressed. Helen Esmonde, calls me her 'Irish Rebel' and I must confess to having an eighth of the Emerald Isle green flowing through the veins. I think I managed it, although I did once get my shillelagh out, to no effect, so put it away! It is rather difficult to get 30 odd people to agree on anything but I am delighted to report that they did to a man (and 3 women) - bless them all! Inevitably there is a little more work to be done and a small working party are charged with finalising the detail without the need to go back through the process. I congratulate the Court for their robust challenges to the supporters of this project and for their wisdom in voting so positively in favour of the historic step. Watch this space and others for more news when we have it.
A very jolly and well catered Livery Lunch followed with the Hall packed with Liverymen and their guests. I had a three minute slot to welcome the guests and my joke seemed to go down without offending the Catholics and Jews present! After a short break we had the new members evening which I always love as it is a great privilege to talk about the Company and show off our Hall. I said a few words and we then had the Royal Marine Cadets in to parade and for us to present them with prizes for excellence. Even though the chaps who came have yet to see service and indeed many of them will not go into full time service they all were very smart in dress and conversation and reflected well on their instructors hard work. The evening was very well hosted by Trevor Fenwick who leads our Membership Development Committee and he introduced Alex Hardy, a new Freeman and a media lawyer, who spoke very compellingly of her experiences in her early days in the Company. I wish I had got her to Chair the Court earlier, she would have charmed the downside brigade! A great day and I managed to stay awake to get off the train at the right station but slept through the 10 O'clock News! Mrs Dewey is looking forward to July 2 but I am still not!
March 01, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
My dear blog, I have rather neglected you this week. I have been very busy with matters relating to our proposed involvement with a Academy and the preparations for next Monday's Special Court, plus a few other matters. I don't know how I would have done this job with a full time role, but some amazingly do.
My only formal event this week was the Pewterers Dinner at their small but rather grand Hall. The Hall was built after their last one was totally destroyed in the Second World War.They are number 16 in the 'pecking order' and still maintain links with what is left of their trade. They are however an eclectic bunch with a wide range of business and professional backgrounds and they seem to rotate the Mastership around 5 families, most entrants coming in by patrimony.
I sat next to the Renter Warden, who is equivalent to our Under Warden and he proved very good company and is (I think I have the title right) the Grand Secretary of Provincial Lodges and even more grandly based in one of the best streets in St James's. I know little about Freemasonry and he was very illuminating, as you might not expect on the subject. One nugget for you, the secrecy surrounding the movement came out of the last War when Herr Hitler had Freemason's targeted equally as Jewish people for elimination. They are clearly much more open these days and I have seen first hand evidence of their charitable nature. An excellent dinner was followed by an intriguing speech from Master Pewterer, Hugh Mullins, likening each Livery's number in the order of presence to the same ranking in Moody's credit ratings of countries of the World! 47 apparently makes us equal to Trinidad and Tobago! Go figure! The response was by, no less than Lord Browne of Maddingly, late of BP. In the shortest speech I have heard all year, he told us that we would be saved by technology and shale oil and gas were likely to lead the charge. You heard it here first!
Back to the flat with the sober Clerk, who is being very impressive in his Lenten resolve, to a peaceful night sans tap dancing. After a good meeting with the bold and brave Warden's back to Surrey to more e mails!
February 22, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
I am writing this on the morning of 22 February. My dear wife asked me to do something this morning and I had to say that I could not as I had pressing e mails to attend to in connection with the Company. The response was 'I cannot believe how much time you spend in your study since you became Master'. Just for fun I thought I would count up how many Company related e mails I have received in the last week, most of which needing a response. The number is 134 amazingly! It has been a particularly heavy week with the school project and in particular the finalising of the papers for the Special Court on 4 March that needed to be sent out today but it is worthy of note, dear blog, that the role of Master is not just attending rather fine events and chairing the odd meeting!
Talking of fine events, I attended on Wednesday, just one of those. The Warden's, Clerk and I were invited down to the Royal Marine Reserves City of London Unit at Wandsworth, for a tour and dinner afterwards. We were cordially received by the CO, our good friend Lt. Colonel Steve Lee and his senior team. After drinks Steve made an excellent presentation on the Corps and in particular the Reserves, who are to feature so much more prominently in the Government's plans for our armed services. Interestingly, the White Paper before legislation is out for consultation and there is quite a 'push back' from employers who are now concerned that the benefits of having increasing numbers of service trained employees are not totally outweighed by the absences and also that the esprit d'corps engendered by time in the services seem to have an unsettling effect when the man or woman returns to work. This could potentially scupper the strategy. Slight embarrassment when my chair cracked in two places, I may now have to exclude starters as well as desserts from my diet!
After the briefing we went around the site and saw some of the fitness training. Marines have to carry about 80lbs of equipment in a wide range of temperatures and when they get there fight as well. The Upper Warden tried to get me to climb a rope but I declined as I had gun oil on my hands from a previous demonstration of their weaponry! We meet some young Sea Cadets from Kingston who often train at the Unit and they were being taught how to bivouac and stay dry and warm in the field. My camping days as a Boy Scout came rushing back but all I could think of was the Girl Guides in the next field! On to the boat section where we were shown a large Zodiac in very sexy black but we could not inspect the engines as they were away for service. Hope the Third World War does not start this week! All very impressive however and it was a delight to speak with the Marines. One chap is a Professor at Imperial College and another was a senior trader at a well known Swiss bank, so plenty of brains in the other ranks.
We were then ushered into the large drill hall where I was invited to stand by the Honorary Colonel of the RMR on a dais to receive the salute after Beating the Retreat. A marching and musical feat of high precision which you may have seen at the Hall. After the Colonel had congratulated the team they and we were given a large port and the custom is to drink it quickly. I was then primed to present sergeant's stripes to Corporals, which I happily and proudly did. Another tray arrived for another toast and this time it must have been quadruple whiskies for the down in one treatment. Lovely.
On to a jolly dinner in the Sergeant's Mess hosted by the RSM who welcomed us to, as he put it, 'his Mess'. We had a very substantial curry and there was much fun and drinking amongst a really interesting and sociable body of men. The Marines had even laid on a fine trio of their musicians to play for us during dinner. At the end Steve asked if I wanted to say anything. I had not been briefed on this and always like to prepare properly for these things, but I suspected I might be asked, so planned along with our thanks to tell a favourable story about the Royal Marines that I came across for last year's Civic where none of our hosts were present. As I got to my feet I knew this was going to be a challenge, after the hospitality. Usually if I am to speak I drink very little until afterwards and then try to catch up! No chance in this company so blew the opening line of the joke but somehow managed to struggle through to polite if not ecstatic applause!
It was quite late by then and the Stationers party were making their farewells to get home. I have a daughter who lives in Wandsworth so foolishly had mentioned that I only had a 5 minute walk back. Without the 'excuse' of a journey to Surrey, I was warmly pressed to stay on for a night cap. It turned out to be more of a night suit.. I glided back to Sarah's, 6 blocks away, happily relishing a quite superb evening. A quite different story in the morning with a meeting to attend and then lunch with the IPM, but I survived.
February 20, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
I had a meeting with a Court Assistant on the subject of the proposed school in the morning and thence to the very grand Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall for lunch with the Chairman of the Fundraising Committee, our generous host and the Chairman of the Foundation. Very useful discussions as we prepare for the all important vote at a Special Court to be held on 4 March. We are considering embarking on this major project to have again a Stationers' School. This will involve raising some money and providing governors, mentors and industry contacts. It is vitally important that the Court fully supports this as we will, if approved, be asking the whole Company to support this with time, talents and money and the only way I know how to lead is from the front, so there is an imperative to get full Court support.
What a treat was in store for the evening! Under the inspired leadership of Deborah Akers supported by the Livery Committee, with very special mention for Tim Connell, Tony and I greatly enjoyed a Rudyard Kipling Celebration Banquet, Kipling was an Honarary Freeman and Liveryman.. We enjoyed Sitar music for drinks beforehand, reflecting Kipling's India connections and then on to the Hall for a feast, including Kedgeree, roast beef, which I had to taste before being served and a coconut syllabub (which I was told was very good). Interspersed between the courses we had a fine actor who told of Kipling's life and illustrated it with some of his work. If that was not enough entertainment David Abel (Bert's son) did some table magic and after desert we tried to sing songs from the Jungle Book to the despair I am sure of our friend Matthew Morley of St Brides who attempted to lead us. We are good at events but bad at singing I do conclude! To the Stirrup Cup which even included, Bengal Lancer Pale Ale, Brandy Pawnee and Kipling Ale - but not a fondant fancy in sight! I mumbled a few words including prizes for the best turned out to Liveryman Dorothy Pooley and Freeman Mike Gee, who looked like he had raided a Turkish bath locker room! Special mention for the beautiful menu which should become a collectors item. Glorious evening and why weren't you there = not that we could have squeezed you in!
February 20, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Oh dear, poor Sam Lehai our ever cheerful member of the Hall team has been struck down with pneumonia and is in Kings College Hospital in Denmark Hill. Both Sue and Gerald Hill our Hon.Almoner have been to see him already and he is on the mend although he may be in hospital until next week and then will need time to convalesce. He has been cheered by many messages and cards and if you would like to send your good wishes, the office can gibe you details.
This evenings event was an invitation from the Lord Mayor (who was not there as he is in India) to attend the Mansion House for a talk by the Deputy Prime Minister. It was set speech, leaked to the press the day before, announcing another initiative to stimulate business in the regions. All laudable stuff as London and the South East make a positive contribution to the Exchequer each year whilst the regions do not. However, without being too cynical, we need confidence for businesses to invest and banks willing to lend and another raft of quango's just wont make that happen. Why do Government interfere so much? Sorry this is getting political but I and a number of those there let rip. At least we are not getting a jewellery tax which would have been embarrassing, as I might have had to get my a pair of Ratner earrings valued that were presented in a Garrad box! I won't start on the Mansion Tax! Anyway a pleasant enough occasion and many other Master's there were high complimentary about our Master & Clerk's Dinner, which resulted in some very glowing thank you letters as well..
A light and jolly supper with the Clerk and so to bed. Ronnicus Nocturnal was quite active on the floorboards well into the wee small hours!
February 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Another 'red letter day' in the Company calendar, the 'Cakes and Ale' lunch followed by Ash Wednesday Service in St Faith's Chapel in the crypt of St Paul's. As everyone knows I am sure the lunch and service were instigated 401 years ago by a thrice Past Master (what stamina!) John Norton who left £150 to care for the poor of the parish and the Company plus providing a lunch for the Company before or after an Ash Wednesday Service, the preacher at which was to be awarded ten shillings. The sum worth about £16,000 in today's money was to be invested in property and the rent used to pay for his bequests. Well I suppose it was possible to buy a property for that sum in the 17thcentury but if we did it went along with our other property portfolio some time ago. However, happily the tradition remains and took the opportunity to remind everyone enjoying a 'free' lunch that as John Norton left his mark for charity, so should we. It will be interesting to see if my words 'fell on stony ground'.
It always amazes me, although I suppose it shouldn't, how many members ship up for this that we do not see all year at anything else. Many that I spoke to have moved considerable distances from London and in retirement find it both expensive and taxing to make the journey to London. So I hope the tradition of Past Master Norton can continue as it is wonderful to see older Liverymen and Freemen having the chance to come to the Hall and see their old friends. A recent tradition, started by the redoubtable, Gerald Hill, has been to invite widows of members and some thirty of them attended. I spoke to them all and they were so pleased to have been invited and had a really enjoyable time.
We duly processed to St Paul's for the service. The sermon by our very own, David Meara, was quite outstanding and he forgave John Norton and us for our 'indulgencies' on the first day of Lent, which was very comforting. He likened most members of the Company to the sixth age of man in Jaques speech in 'As You Like It, when you 'slip into lean and slipper'd pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side'. Personally I think I am in the fifth age still 'in fair round belly with good capon lin'd'! Anyway, when I get to the seventh age, 'sans teeth, sans eyes, sans teeth, sans everything', I hope I will have left my 'mark', if not for 'Cakes and Ale' but for the odd laugh!
A truly wonderful and enjoyable Staioners' 'red letter day'.
February 16, 2013 by Mr Kevin Dewey
Today was the monthly meeting of theMaster and Wardens Committee when discussions ranged from WiFi, through SMART objectives for committees to the rather important matter getting guidance from the committee for the Special Court meeting to be held on 4 March to ratify our agreement in principle to proceed with our sponsorship for a New Stationers' School. This Court will not be asked to take the final decision yet, as our Memorandum of Understanding is subject to the more detailed contract that will be drawn up later. However, it is a very important milestone and we have to get the MoU aligned to our major conditions for participation as soon as possible. We had a spirited debate with everyone in principle in favour but some having reservations on our ability to raise the funds that are part of our contribution to the participation and also if we can garner enough support from the Company to provide governors and give support to the pupils by mentoring and providing industry links. All quite proper concerns for debate and resolution and the process is ongoing.
My take on this is that when a school is located and we can see what our educational charity partner (the Leigh Academies Trust) has achieved elsewhere, that if we cannot find the support needed amongst 800 members of the Company plus the known support from the Old Stationers Association, then we are a much more selfish community than I know us to be and we need to seriously reconsider the charitable nature of our Livery.
At noon we were joined by Frank Green who is the CEO of the Leigh Academies Trust who spoke briefly about the Trust and answered the committees questions. The impression I gained afterwards was that he impressed the committee with his openness and willingness to understand and address some of the concerns.
We were to be joined for lunch by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, an old colleague of Past Master Christopher McKane's at 'The Times'.. Sadly, even after changing the date and the start time, we heard on Friday that he had to pull out due to more pressing business. His second 'U turn' in one week! He has promised to return at a later date and I hope he does. We still had an excellent and jolly lunch with four excellent guests. Liveryman Sir Tony Baldry MP was his usual robust self with tales from the Commons and the Church Commissioners. Lewis Bronze who is the CEO of Espresso Education that delivers on line leaning to schools and was formally Editor of 'Blue Peter' was most engaging on his exciting field of work. As the Upper Warden is his Chairman we have a wonderful link for the future with this growing branch of delivering education. Adrian Watney is a Past Master of the Mercers' Company who sponsor many schools, indeed he told us that seventy Mercers' are currently School Governor's and we, by the way, need four! The list of outstanding guests was rounded of by Frank Green. We had some excellent open table discussions and the occasion was very useful for the committee to broaden their knowledge of the educational world.