Monthly Archives: January 2015

Old Bailey Lunch, Tuesday 27 January 2015

I have two pictures of Justice in my head. The first is from Alice in Wonderland with the oft quoted cry from the Queen of Hearts of “Off with their heads” The second is the laying of the “black cap” on the head of the judge in the Dennis Price and Sir Alex Guinness film of Kind Heart and Coronets when the sentence of death by the hangman’s noose is passed on the would be Duke who disposed of his ancestors in line before him to the title.

My invitation to join the Sheriffs at lunch in the Old Bailey was eagerly accepted as although I have had the good fortune to dine with judges of the commercial and civil courts and tribunals, the prospect of discussing real life Eastenders was something that very much appealed to my curiosity.

I was not to be disappointed with my greeting being champagne in the Chambers of The Alderman and Sheriff Dr Andrew Parmley supported by Alderman Sir Roger Gifford and the Secondary and Under Sheriff Mr Charles Henty with the latter responsible for running the Old Bailey as a Court on a daily basis.

The tradition of the Sheriffs running the criminal justice side of London goes back to time immemorial with the Office of Sheriff being much older than that of the Lord Mayor with recorded references in Saxon times and beyond.

Lunch was a colourful and noisy affair with the 15 judges, including the Recorder of London, in their gowns and wigs all eager to meet with their four guests of which I was one. The lunch itself was relatively Spartan and quick given the judges were all sitting and had but an hour to finish their vittals but the conversation was rich and very satisfying. The nature of the discussion forbids it being repeated but all four judges sitting around me were dealing with murder.

Interestingly although the death sentence is no longer available as punishment for convicted murderers in the UK the judges still wear the black cap on ceremonial duties and in particular on the day the Lord Mayor is installed in office.

The afternoon was more sobering when I sat in on a case of a harrowing sex crime case with children involved. Suddenly the pomp and circumstance, the good natured and witty banter over lunch with judges of real character was forgotten and the true nature of justice and the crimes of society with all its sadness and negativity was brought home to me with a sledge hammer. I arrived in the morning happy and enthusiastic. I left somewhat deflated and under no illusions that life is stranger than fiction and far more real than Eastenders!

Graham F. Chase  Master

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January Livery Dinner at Goldsmiths Hall, Monday 26 January 2015

Some say Goldsmith’s Hall is the finest hall of its type in the world. Although I am sure others may have a different opinion there is no doubting the splendid sumptuousness of a magnificent edifice to the City of London and its Livery Companies. In many respects we are privileged, as gypsies, having to host ourselves in the halls of other Livery Companies that have to toil in their upkeep and standing as an event venue. We get to see many of splendid halls and without the effort and risk that such a holding brings with it we can at least be nimble and fleet of foot.

The above said we had 200 guests filling to close on Goldsmiths’ Hall maximum capacity a building originally constructed in 1339 beneath the 200 individually lit candles set in their magnificent Victorian Chandeliers which adorn the dining hall.

A wonderful setting reflecting on the product of skilled craftsmen that the Livery Companies and Guilds have produced thorough education, apprenticeship and standards for over 1,000 years. It was therefore perhaps fitting that our theme of the evening was education with our guests included two heads of the school’s we support of Robert Clack and Archbishop Tenison’s and a number of other distinguished head teachers, teachers and others involved in the world of education.

We were therefore indeed fortunate to call upon our two speakers of Lord Lingfield, Chief adviser to the Government on education to propose the toast to the Company and Peter Williams CBE the Master Educator to reply to my speech.

Lord Lingfield examined the state of education in the UK and reflected on the poor involvement of men as teachers and classroom assistants with less than 5% in the primary system and below 25% in secondary schools. With 75% of graduates last year being female the exclusion of males from the education profession is an interesting take on the usual gender debate that takes place in the City of London and the Footsie 500 company boardrooms.

Peter Williams focused on how Livery Companies can make a difference with an emphasis on mentoring demonstrating graphically the results of education so as to inspire the next generation to seek to achieve. What was so comforting is that much of what we have and are doing at the Chartered Surveyors Livery Company has been either ahead of the game or right on target. However, there is no room for complacency with many decisions about to face us on the education front not least being our relationship with CSTT where our 3 year memorandum of understanding comes to an end in September this year.

In addition to our speakers we were entertained by students of the Guildhall School of Music who once again demonstrated their quality and skill to a most appreciative audience.

My thanks to the Prime Warden of the Goldsmith’s and the Clerk for allowing us to use their Hall. Also my deepest thanks to the caterers CH & Co Catering Ltd who provided an exceptional and excellent meal with superb wines to match.

Finally a big and grateful thanks to our Clerk, Amanda Jackson, who had to deal with last minute changes as well as keep us all on time and happy, a result she achieved with finesse and aplomb.

Graham F. Chase  Master

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January Court Meeting Apothecaries Hall, Monday 26 January 2015

This was the first meeting of the Court in our new home of Apothecaries Hall. It did not have the business feel of the GVA offices in Cheapside but the surroundings were impressive and the meeting room gave the feel that we were now home. If we can come up with a cunning plan to provide tea, coffee, water and perhaps a few biscuits it may even be seen as homely.

There were several important areas of business which included new Committee procedures and a review of their terms of reference. This brought to light some misunderstandings on the role of the Charitable Board. After a discussion and narrow margin on a show of hands the name was changed to the Charity Committee.

It was agreed that military decorations, known as Minitures, would in future be allowed to be worn at the Spring Dinner where we invite representatives from our Military associates.

The first Allied and Associated Livery Lunch is to be held at Apothecaries Hall on Friday 17 April hosted by The Chartered Surveyors Livery Company and where the Lord Mayor and Sheriff have accepted invitations to attend. This is a new initiative by our company designed to improve our standing in the City as a leading modern company supporting the work of the Liveries and the Lord Mayor. It is anticipated this will be a bi or tri annual event so we will see how it turns out but we are hoping it will reap rewards in the medium and long term.

We were delighted to install 3 new Livery Members but with the aim to secure a full Livery Membership of 400 with a waiting list in the next 18 months there is a bit of work to do on this front. All Liverymen are encouraged to propose appropriate new Members with the criteria required set out in the Members side of our website which I urge you to look at regularly as a source of information and our activities for your benefit.
Graham F. Chase  Master

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Worshipful Company of Plaisterers Dinner at Plaisterers Hall, Tuesday 13 January 2015

Two full on Livery dining outings in the first two weeks of the New Year demonstrates the folly of a dry January in this job. Fortunately I did not make such a rash decision on abstinence and my foresight has been truly rewarded.

A return to Plaisters Hall, the place of my installation, as a guest of the Master Plaisterer Michael Jones, was a welcome homecoming. It is the largest Livery Hall in the City outside of Mansion House, the planning permission requiring 300 covers to be available. Just as well as my installation saw 296 attendees with last night attendees at about 276 so Chartered Surveyors pipping Plaisteres in a close finish.

With the Master Plaisterer a Welshman there was much in the proceedings to celebrate “Gods own country”. The highlight of the entertainment was a Welsh tenor Trystan Llyr Griffiths who sang 3 pieces but had to stop and repeat the last one 3 times as he forgot the words. When he finished he was greeted with a rousing cheer similar to that heard at Cardiff Arms Park or the Millenium Stadium when the Welsh XV have pulled a momentous win out of the bag. Trystan did have a spectacular voice and therefore the repeats were really the equivalent of an encore except they were delivered before the end of the show!

The response on behalf off the guests was given by Deborah Ounsted CBE the Master of the Mercers Company. She was enthralled with the craftsmanship employed in the plasterwork of Plaisterers Hall and the social standing of the Plasterers in society. She drew reference to the equality with female plasterers recorded in many records stretching back hundreds of years. She then focussed on two examples where the women plasterers were found guilty of “sloppy workmanship” and fined. “Equality of responsibility” was her final message.

The Plaisterers do things differently with the Clerk, Nigel Bamping, a most engaging and lively character, taking a higher profile in proceedings than at the Chartered Surveyor Livery dinners, delivering not one but two speeches. The first was the toast of “The Worshipful Company of Plaisterers” and the second was to thank the Master following his response. The bottom line here is the Clerk gets a say at the beginning and end so keeps the Master fully under control. He advised the clerks present, of which there were many, of a prayer he uses every time at the beginning of the new Masters year which made me giggle:

‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’ Reinhold Niebuhr

I suspect all clerks will endorse such an approach and Masters have to learn to smile regardless, yet again!

Now how about this for a menu:

Seared Wood Pigeon, wild mushrooms and redcurrants, liver parfait with truffled brioche — Viognier 2013, Vignerons de Mont Ventoux, Ventoux

Pot roasted Venison Loin, braised red cabbage with sultanas, caramalised pear, rosti potato, pot roasted baby carrot and a Barolo jus — Chateau Bonnet 2010 Bordeaux France

Praline Semi Freddo, poached strawberries, basil coulis and lavender shortbread — Vat 5 Bortytis Semillon de Bortoli, Australia

Glazed Pear & Stilton Rarebit on sour dough with smoked garlic — Taylors LBV

Coffee and chocolate truffles — Courvoisier VS

A quite splendid event, with the caterers, “Create”, very much at the top of the tree in Livery catering, in my opinion and the wines by “Vintage Cellar” also out of the top draw. All very authentic as I proved when disengaging some lead shot from my right molar that had been left in the pigeon first course. However worth the slightly damaged capped tooth I can assure you.

Graham F. Chase  Master

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Masons Epiphany Lunch at Mercers Hall, Tuesday 6 January 2015

Masters and waistlines tends to be a touchy subject although all in a good cause and most enjoyable. However, after Christmas when New Year resolutions to fast and go dry become de rigour the early onslaught of a fresh round of lunches and dinners can be daunting.

The Masons Epiphany lunch on 6th January celebrates the 12th day of Christmas and therefore is hardly a “moveable feast”. Nevertheless I set off to Mercers Hall in Ironmongers Lane in the heart of the City with a light step as this is my very first formal visit to this great building and a Livery Hall of one of the Great Twelve to boot.

I was not to be disappointed with the finishes and memorabilia on display quite breathtaking. That said the layout is unusual with very a large reception hall and sizeable meeting rooms but a relatively small dining room.

Anyway we were off to a late start at 1:15pm which was extended further by the delayed arrival of the Master Robert Morrow and Court which seemed to unhinge the catering arrangements with the result that speeches did not start until just before 3pm. The Master cut short his welcome and the focus was on the guest speaker Peter Lowndes, a chartered surveyor and the retired former senior partner of the national residential estate agents Lane Fox.

The wait was worthwhile with Peter giving a vivid, entertaining and fair account of his time in the business and advised on much that he had learnt which remains relevant today. Never tell the client what they want to hear but what they should hear, which is the truth, but learn how to say it. Being human, Peter admitted that was sometimes a very hard thing to do.

He also considered the business of estate agency and the mad corporate world of the 80’s and 90’s with the conclusion that mergers never work but takeovers can. Somebody needs to be in control and the dominant party, otherwise the organisation loses momentum. Wise words indeed.

I was also privileged to sit next to the Upper Warden Bill Gloyn, one of our own Chartered Surveyor livery members. It should be no surprise as many Masons are Chartered Surveyors and I soon found myself talking to a number of them that I have known in business over many years. It quickly became a trip down memory lane with a client from over 30 years ago, Neil Barnes of Lyon Group and Arunbridge (remember Ronnie Lyon?), sitting on my other side to Bill.

A quite splendid occasion which I thoroughly enjoyed. The waistline has suffered but all in a good cause and at least I have the value of the memories. Unfortunately a number of other Masters as guests were unable to attend at the last minute for various reasons but I wonder if a twelfth day of celebrating Christmas was just one dinner too much for them — certainly not a problem for me but the sacrifices I have to make………!

Graham F. Chase  Master

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