Monthly Archives: April 2015

WCCS HMS Echo Endeavour Awards Devonport, Plymouth, Thursday 30 April 2015

Visiting the armed forces on a formal visitor occasion is always an exciting time and my visit to Devonport, Europe’s largest Naval installation, was not to disappoint.

A wonderful railway journey through the rolling and green countryside of the West Country is a reminder of the precious nature of our Island state. As I was to later learn some 90% of all imported goods come by sea, 95% of overseas communications now travel by undersea fibre optic cable and we have one of the longest coastlines of any country in Europe with some of the most treacherous waterways in the world.

I was duly met at the security gates by the Commanding Officer of HMS Commander Philip Neville who escorted me with other guests to our host ship for the day HMS Argyll. She is a type 23 Frigate and although 24 years old and the senior ship of the Royal Navy is shortly to go into a years refit. On her return she will be one of the most advanced fighting ships on the seven seas.

We were given an action replay of how a torpedo attack would be repelled from the vantage point of the command centre in the heart of the ship. You will all be pleased to know we managed to avoid being hit but my greatest surprise was the use of a 6d whistle as the alert for certain actions to be taken. I have to say that with a two ton torpedo on my tail and closing fast I am not sure I would have the puff to blow and make any noise at all. That said the whistle was somehow reassuring that human beings were still in control of the process.

The fire crew gave a graphic display of how extreme a fire at sea can be. Further they are not uncommon, the majority being electrical, with HMS Argyll suffering 4 fires last year although all were minor and quickly extinguished thanks to the skill and speed of the fire crews.

On to the fast tender used for all sorts of purposes. Fast and jet powered they can go nearly anywhere. Recently whilst on patrol in the West Indies these amazing small craft managed to stop, board and recover from a smuggling craft illegal drugs with a street value of £200 million. I wonder if that has helped to fund the refit!

Finally onto HMS Courageous a decommissioned nuclear powered submarine berthed just behind HMS Conqueror which sunk the Belgrano in the Argentine conflict. It was a fascinating visit and although a very large craft, the height of two double decker buses, the amount of equipment it carries made it a cramped and claustrophobic place. There could be no privacy and little peace as many bunks and sleeping stations were spaced among the equipment. How would you like a fully armed torpedo as your sleeping partner?

For those who like cooking try the 10 feet by 6 feet galled for size which stores all the equipment and rations for 7o days and it gives you some idea of how the whole place operates. Yet the ratings confirmed that despite cooking for 90 crew three times a day the quality was usually very good although most chefs have their off days.

Back to HMS Argyll and the “Sunset” ceremony performed everyday at 4pm as the ensign at the stern on the Flight deck is lowered. A perfect end to a perfect day and a perfect journey back through our wonderful and well defended island.

My thanks to Commander Neville who advises me that the HMS propeller problems are being “sorted” but in any event it will be back on station next month on domestic duties. That may well give us a chance to visit her and Commander Neville will advise us of that opportunity as soon as convenient.

Graham F. Chase Master

 

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The Company of Waterman and Lightermen of the River Thames, St George’s Day Luncheon at Watermen’s Hall, Thursday 23 April 2015

St George’s Day on 23 April is in some respects a strange day for the English as although it is a day to celebrate our  patron Saint, we seem to fall well short when compared to the celebrations for the patron saints of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. However, it would be wrong to suggest that such an approach is universal. At the Company of Waterman and Lightermen of the River Thames,, the St George’s day lunch is a focus of significant celebration.

Watermen’s Hall, as I have mentioned in a previous blog,  has been in existence since 1779. The architect was a surveyor, William Blackburn and is a fine building which  has shown relatively little change since it was built. The history of the Company goes back even further to 1514 which was the earliest Act of Parliament regulating Watermen Ferrymen & Bargeman receiving Royal assent from King Henry VIII  celebrating its 500th anniversary last year — yet it is not a traditional Livery Company.

The company to this day still retains an important place at the forefront of the working life of the River Thames, bringing to bear its skill, knowledge and experience in assuring the safe and healthy future of the river, to develop its activities and use its assets so as to make sure best use is made to reflect the changing needs of the river and its users.   It may therefore be an old Company but it certainly has a modern relevance and with an objective that would no doubt make St George proud.

The Master, Jerry Randall, clearly had either a second job as a comedian or aspirations to be a stand-up comic for he kept the audience of 60 lunch guests enthralled and highly amused.

I was once again quite surprised at the number of chartered surveyors present which included Rodney Bennum, the Master of the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers, an ex Chairman of Wates and a senior member of the construction industry.   I will not relay my conversation but it was quite revealing, enlightening and encouraging for many reasons, with some action to undertake.

There was no restraint on the food in keeping with the Halls fine reputation for hospitality with wine and port that flowed. The main course was pedigree to  sirloin steak from the South Downs beef herd, with wines from Muscadet and Semillon of the highest quality.Later on that afternoon I had a meeting with a major retailer in their offices at Victoria but needless to say, for once, I let them do most of the talking.   Perhaps St George has a lot to answer for including managing to keep me quiet —  indeed something to celebrate.

Graham F. Chase Master

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The Worshipful Company of Paviors Spring Livery Dinner Drapers Hall, Wednesday 22 April 2015

Enlisting the help of my next door neighbour’s son and together with our regular  builder I have this Spring, undertaken the momentous task of refurbishing the patio area in my rear garden. The garden, with a depth of just over 80 feet is not monumental but it isn’t a postage stamp either and with large patio areas by the house and at the end of the garden connected by a path this was a project requiring some fortitude and planning. Grout or sand and cement and if the latter, what should the mix be, should the sand for the jointing be kiln dried and is it sharp or soft sand for the bedding of the brick blockwork and paving?!

The devastation of my garden as works commenced was a complete contrast to the crafted finished and guidance of Drapers hall hosting the Paviors Spring Livery Dinner. The calming effect of this splendid livery building constructed in 1671 made me forget the turmoil at home. Further, I was encouraged to seek advice from the members of the Paviors Livery on the queries I had on the paving of my patios. Surely these people would have the answers at their fingertips and I could depart the dinner at the end replete in terms of both food and instructions of the way forward.

No such luck. No matter how hard I searched for enlightenment in my quest there were only engineers, lawyers, accountants and personnel officers as Pavior Members. Intrigued by my questions but unable to answer they suggested that “Ask Jeeves or “Google” which may provide the solution to my quest. The Master Terry Last, was most sympathetic and looked after me to the very high standards of hospitality but not a word on sharp or soft sand selection options.

The guest speaker was Ms Camilla Batmanghelidjh BE, the famous psychotherapist and Chief Executive of “Kids Company”, founder of Place 2Be and author of Shattered Lives. An inspirational human being who faces the distress that comes her way all day every day as she helps children who have no meaningful life or hope of ever having one. She told stores that although were uplifting, simply left a lump in the throat and the realisation of how very lucky we are.

I went home that night not even thinking about my patio problems or that my quest to find an answer to sharp or soft sand had been a dismal failure. I realised that such concerns were of no consequence and that it didn’t matter or have any relevance given the hardship of children in our own country. I wore my black tie to this event for fun and to look right. Many kids fill the holes in their shoes with chewing gum and have no underpants to wear anyway.

The next day I rang the next door neighbour’s son and the builder and told them kiln dried sand with a mortar mix of 3:1 for the jointing and sharp sand for the bedding. But quite frankly it doesn’t matter and although the result of my new patio was brilliant, my only thoughts are with those children who have no happiness or self esteem let alone a patio to sit on. This was a most unpleasant reality check and that will long outshine my now perfectly laid patio, although it was the Paviors who have taught me about much more than just paving!

Graham F. Chase Master

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Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors Allied and Associated Companies Lunch at Apothecaries Hall in the presence of the Lord Mayor and Sheriff, Friday 17 April 2015

The difference between winning and coming second at any level in any arena can be a very small amount. In athletics a new World record can be determined by the tiniest fraction of a second yet it is a large enough distance to ensure that history will never remember the runner up.

This rather harsh analysis ignores the fact that those who are winners secure their place because of the effort of everyone who follows behind them. And so it is with business, charities and the Livery Companies. If we are going to make a difference we have to be winners at what we do.

To bring together our 23 Allied and Associated Livery Companies from Masons through to Environmental Cleaners and secure 19 of them at a lunch in the presence of the Rt Hon Lord Mayor Alderman Alan Yarrow and the Aldermanic Sheriff, Dr Andrew Parmley is a clear winner on any measure. At a stroke it put us into the category of a leading modern Livery Company with influence.

Nobody, not even our learned Clerk, can remember the last time we had a Lord Mayor attend one of our functions outside of those held at the Mansion House. To add a Sheriff and 19 Livery Company Masters made it a once in a decade, or even once in a generation, event. The final tally was an attendance of 41 guests 22 Past Masters, Members of our Court plus the Clerk, 14 Liverymen and the three consorts of the Master and Wardens, a grand total of 80.

The key to success was the business approach by taking a short Friday lunch allowing the Lord Mayor and Sheriff together with their consorts to allocate time outside a full evening dinner programme. Further, by encouraging the attendance of a large number of Livery Company Masters in one room, the opportunity for the Lord Mayor to speak and meet with so many in a single hit was not to be missed.

We had a great start with a warm spring day without a cloud in the sky showing off Apothecaries Hall and its spacious enclosed Courtyard to its very best effect. What better setting for a champagne reception and the creation of a friendly and happy occasion.

All too quickly we were ushered into the 17th Century Hall, the oldest surviving complete Livery Company building in the City of London providing a splendid backdrop to the greatest display of Livery badges and chains I have ever seen at one time. A right “Badge off”.

Lunch was a relatively simple affair, considering the occasion, with two courses of Salmon followed by Roast Beef and accompanying French wines, however, it promoted perfectly the business approach.

I lead the proceedings with my speech focussing on the importance of the Livery Companies influencing the ethics and business practices of the City of London. It appeared to combine well with the Lord Mayor who followed extolling the history and strengths of the Livery Company movement and the need to demonstrate standards following a number of damaging City of London scandals of poor practices particularly in the banking sector. This was now a time to look forward and to recognise how much the City of London does for the UK and world business and not be shy or backward in spring boarding from this significant strength rather than be deterred by those who would seek to destroy or weaken what drives a great world city.

I presented a cheque of £2,500 to the Lord Mayor for his appeal and then a cheque for £2,500 to Liveryman Ian Marcus in his capacity as CEO of the Princes Regeneration Trust which the Livery has agreed to fund for a period of 3 years. We then heard from Liveryman Ian Marcus on the objectives and achievements of the Trust and his thanks for our generosity. I know that subsequently several of those Livery Company Masters attending, seeing the link with the property and construction industry, have decided to support the Trust as well — so we have already influenced our Allied and Associated Liveries.

The lunch commenced at 12:30pm and finished at 2:30pm sharp with both the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress expressing their gratitude for a focussed and efficient programme coupled with only two courses thus saving their waistlines. Similar comments have been received from the Masters that attended and encouraging many to add business lunches to their programmes next year.

In conclusion I feel we made our mark, created a new grouping of Associated and Allied Liveries for the property and construction industry represented in the City, launched our new initiative with the Princes Regeneration Trust and reinforced our links and commitment to the Lord Mayor’s office and the business and profile of the City of London. I believe we were winners and on this occasion not just by a tiny distance but by a clear margin.

Graham F. Chase Master

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The Lord Mayors Big Curry Lunch in support ABF Soldiers Charity Guildhall, London Thursday 16 April 2015

With some 3,000 attendees to this event and three full curry lunch sittings, this is as close to a Saturday night out in St Mary’s Street, Cardiff that the Lord Mayor and the City Liveries get.

The Masters of the Livery Companies were invited to the Lord Mayor’s Reception prior to the lunch kicking off at 11.15am for the calm before the storm when the gates were opened to the assembled throng at 11.45am. The reception was in the Old Library and I was impressed that Cobra beer was available straight from the ice bucket in the bottle; this was indeed a good start. Several Masters who knew each other huddled together for comfort as the crowd grew but at our allocated sitting time we were ushered into the Great Hall where several buffet service points operated by the armed forces ensured that were plated up in military fashion and in double quick time. The other benefit is that the army really know how to make a curry and having downed my third Cobra beer seconds would have been much appreciated.

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow address to all those attended was as follows:

Welcome to the 2015 Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch!

The lunch is now in its 8th year. In that time we have raised well over £1 million – money that supports serving and retired members of the armed forces, all of whom have risked their lives for us.

I recently attended a service to mark the end of British involvement in the Afghanistan war. It was an honour to meet so many brave men and women and receive their salute during the march past. But it was also an honour to welcome them into the City of London – a place with ties to the Crown and British Armed Forces that go back centuries. This lunch is another part of that long tradition.

My fellow Chairmen and I are grateful to the sponsors, Livery Companies and Ward Clubs that have contributed to the success of the lunch this year and in previous years.

Enjoy the day – and let’s make the best Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch ever!”

A letter of support and encouragement was sent by the Queen and her Royal Highness Princess Anne attended the event and greeted many of the guests. It was indeed a very special occasion. In spite of the throng of people the enthusiasm for the Big Curry Lunch and bottles of Cobra beer promoted a real sense of achievement and worth for those who have sacrificed themselves both in terms of their lives and bodies in defense of this country and therefore are never far away and always at the forefront of our thoughts.

Graham F. Chase Master

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The Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales Spring Dinner at Sadler’s Hall, Wednesday 15 April 2015

The first thing I noted on my invitation card was that dress would be livery uniform. In truth I didn’t think that much more of it as there was an alternative of dinner jacket but I was curious as to what a livery uniform could mean. On arriving at the splendid Sadler’s Hall I saw a very unusual site with livery members of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants dressed in a maroon jacket with embossed piping and various other design work which all looked very impressive.   The Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants were formed just two months after ourselves and looked a very impressive bunch in their livery uniform but as I delved deeper into the rationale, the position became even more intriguing.   Apparently the first Master of the Chartered Accountants Livery Company was the receiver for Hepworths (who eventually became Next) and he noted that they had a large amount of material which they could not dispose of and hence the arrival of the livery uniform.   Trust an accountant/receiver to see such a deal when everything else in the stricken company was falling down around their ears!

I was gracefully sat at the top table a few places away from Mr David Illingworth, the Master Chartered Accountant.   To my left was Sir David Rowe-Ham GBE, a Senior Past Master and Past Lord Mayor of London.   To my right was the Rt. Hon Jeremy Hanley KCMG, also a Past Master and a politician in Maggie Thatcher and John Major’s governments. He was famously the negotiator in sorting out the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese under the leadership of Chris Patten.   You can imagine that the conversation I had was fascinating and I learnt a great deal but regretfully cannot reveal the information or outcome other than to leave you with the thought that very little tends to be what it appears to be.

The speaker was Mr Gareth Davies, former Chief Executive of Imperial Tobacco and the longest serving ever Chief Executive of the FTSE top 100 company.   He advised that having retired, he found that his new boss, his wife, encouraged him to come back out of retirement and as a result he walked into the chairmanship of three FTSE 100 companies which although has raised eyebrows, demonstrates the significant abilities and talents of Gareth Davies as one of the UK’s leading industrialists and corporate managers. He was highly amusing identifying 12 tips for effective leadership and three alternatives that can be used in an emergency of smiling, listening, and making good guesses.

I was also given a generous souvenir of a book entitled “Voices without Fear” being personal accounts from 47th Squadron of the Royal Air Force during World War 2, this squadron being sponsored by the Chartered Accountants Livery Company. I read several pages on the way home and brought it back into the office the next morning and read several more, such is the content of the book which was fascinating.   Some very funny moments and also great sadness with the loss of so many capable young men in the defense of our country.

I had a great time in wonderful company and where it is clear that the modern livery companies have a single purpose and really are the leading lights in promoting the City of London with all its history, but equally all its business potential.

Graham F. Chase Master

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Worshipful Company of Actuaries Masters and Clerks Luncheon at Waterman’s Hall, Wednesday 15 April 2015

Today has been hot, more summer than spring at 23 degrees centigrade and not a cloud in sight. How lucky to see the beautiful Waterman’s Hall in such fine weather. Built in 1779 it is regarded as the finest and only Georgian hall of its type in existence. As the guest speaker Mrs Ann Esslemont, the Master Glover and wife of a Past Master Actuary now sadly deceased, described it as the most elegant and well proportioned livery hall in the City and I feel she has a point. It is worthy, therefore, to note that it was designed and built by a Surveyor, William Blackburn who was also the Surveyor to Thomas’s and Guys hospitals.

The other guests were the Master Farmer Tony Alston, the Master Glass Seller Ms Gwenllian Rhys and Neville Chamberlain the Master Fueller. The Company of Actuaries only admit qualified actuaries into their livery and had admitted 6 on the day who were duly welcomed by the Master Actuary and all were present. I sat next to Deputy Ken Ayers a Past Master Actuary, former Sheriff and a previous Chief Commoner who knows our own Past Master George Gillon very well so I was able to secure a few interesting stories to pass on at a future date! On my other side were the Actuaries Junior Warden Mr Michael Tripp who was a perfect host and Gwenllian Rhys a real character and activist in the City. The Glass Sellers have a great profile with her at the helm as someone who ensures women have a top table place in the business of the City and a role model for others to follow her.

The Master Actuary, Mr Martin Miles was most generous in his welcome to the four visiting Masters attending although described me as a Disc Jockey which raised a laugh but didn’t do much for my social standing or so I thought because at the end of the meal my spinning of discs was the only thing the guests wanted to discuss with me. Although I was keen to cover the ground on the line of travel of yields being applied to commercial property rents against long term trends, given these were professional actuaries, I got stuck on the death of Percy Sledge earlier this week. He was of course famous for his song “When a man loves a woman”! So I am afraid to say I have no actuarial evidence on property yield movements to pass on to my readers but I can advise that if you want a romantic song to put you on a pedestal look no further than the creation of the late and great Percy Sledge. RIP.

Graham F. Chase Master

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The Worshipful Company of Educators – Master’s Series of Lectures: Come buy a British education! Monday 30 March 2015

Peter Williams CBE has continued with this modern Livery Company’s theme of lectures on the market in education examining how British education is (or isn’t) meeting the challenges posed by the internationalisation of society and the economy. I was able to attend my second lecture this year held at Gresham Hall in Chancery lane. The theme for this year’s series of lectures is “Education — On the inside out” and critically analyses Britain’s education with the world outside. British education is one of the country’s biggest export industries and yet we are deeply ambivalent about exposing our own young people to foreign influences.

Paul Batterbury Dean of Lincoln College Alfaj, Saudi Arabia was the guest speaker at this gathering and brought with him a wealth of experience as an educator, administrator and marketor operating in British education delivery but on a global stage and in specific countries. He passionately believes that when compared to nearly every other countries education system UK education is bought and sold as the best in class. However a number of challenges arise including how does this commercialisation impact on delivery and what happens when a UK FE college is set up in a culturally different country and the maintenance of core values is constantly challenged?

He provided two examples of India and Saudi Arabia both fundamentally different in their challenges and social backgrounds with ethical approaches at completely different ends of the spectrum. In India the critical challenge was the infrastructure and building provision. Classes were held in unusual locations on patios and in countryside clearings with a benign climate that supported such an approach. The understanding of then students overcame most of the problems of the building and readily adapted to the culture of the education provided and the opportunities with all sectors of society, age and gender mixing freely.

Compare this with Saudi Arabia with a strict cultural regime where men and women cannot mix even to the point that repairs to the air conditioning could not be made in the women’s college as a separate entity, until the students had vacated the buildings as the male expat workers were not allowed to mix with the female students at any time. The buildings on the other hand were stunning and of the highest standard of finish but with absolutely no furniture, fixtures and fittings. It took months to get even tables and chairs through border control and customs and on most occasions heavy fines had to be paid as claims were made that the accompanying paperwork was not correct. The new college the speaker opened had hardly any computer equipment for over 6 months and no furniture for as long with staff and students sitting on the bare floor.

Two completely different experiences shaped by the social attitudes and customs of the countries. The common theme however, was that a British based education with the cache of a British degree provided a qualification that offered work and opportunities on a global passport basis and worth paying for. In respect of the latter point in both India and Saudi the costs of the college fees were high but whereas the cost of the course in India was in the region of £3,000, it was £30,000 in Saudi – enough said.

Graham F. Chase Master

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