Blooming Zooming June

Blooming Zooming June

Whilst the South of the UK experienced something of a heatwave Scotland remained mercifully much cooler but with its fair share of decent weather interspersed by some very heavy rainfall.

Result – the reservoirs are full again, the place is green as usual and the weeds are growing out of control (as usual). I occasionally ponder what might have been had things been different and we were based in London as planned. I would have been longing for the cool Scottish air no doubt and complaining about the heat. Be careful what you wish/plan for!!!

Nothing recently has been as planned and certainly not the “deluge” of Zoom meetings on-line, but quietly and quickly they have become the new norm. It’s how we communicate and how we do business.

How did we manage without them?

As far as the Distillers Livery are concerned they are now indispensable and one wonders whether we will ever go back to normal (whatever that is/was!)??

Early June saw the first Master & Wardens Committee conducted by Zoom and once everyone got the hang of the politics and protocols was a very effective meeting.

The Covid Task Force of The Wardens, Clerks Office , Dev Director, Comms guru Paul Finch and I meet every Friday on Zoom, plans and executes our on-going Charitable and other activities & responses. It’s become the ultimate cliché. The New Norm. Apart from allowing a platform to coordinate our initial Drinks Trust appeal it also allowed us the opportunity to  support the excellent initiative  of The Auction and its great to witness our Livery raising and donating over £100k for that Charity already this year.

Apart from being an effective means by which to do business we always repair to the virtual pub for a quick drink in what now seems the normal start to the weekend. Very nice it is too, catching up at the end of a week. Distillers have even invested in their own Licence meaning our meetings can now go on for over 40 minutes without Cyber Squatting it the Grant “Gordon Arms” virtual pub!

The 16th June was a big day for Toby Whittaker who become the first ever Distiller to receive his City Freedom via Zoom and I was delighted to be able to log in and witness that occasion

Since then, I have personally attended a Lord Mayors Coffee Morning with other Masters & Clerks from the wider Food & Drink Livery Companies where a lively topic of conversation was when Marmite might be back on the shelves and the Brewers explaining the apparent shortage of Brewer’s Yeast.

As the month moved progressed it was on to the Zoom Virtual Ironbridge (replacing The Master and Mistress’s away weekend in Telford)  and the creation of our Past Masters Association – with only a few at The Zoom meeting that I had actually met. The name of this year’s Association?

The Zoomers!!

Last week saw our first ever Court meeting by Zoom and 29 of The Court attended and mercifully the technology seemed to work for all. 

Coupled with the recent introduction of a Twitter and a LinkedIn account set up for the auction, you will no doubt be reading this on our all new website. Congratulations to the Comms team for their efforts. Towards the end of the month, Fri 26th saw me have 6 Zoom meetings in one day, all lasting over an hour. It got all the work done and we had our normal Task Force drinks but it did leave me longing for some real face to face meetings and a huge realisation although efficient, Zoom is actually quite tiring, despite being like hours in front of the telly!!

Reasons to be cheerful?

Thinking of material for “The Masters Blog” is becoming increasingly more difficult as Lock Down continues – as you are all about to witness, if you read further.

Looking on the downside, if that’s all we do, only serves to remind one of what a horrible, almost hellish, situation we are all in at the moment, and tends to focus our thoughts on what we cannot have or cannot do.

Whilst retaining a clear perspective of how difficult times are for many, and without wishing to minimise the impact the illness and deaths have had on our society, I have been trying to look on the bright side.

Monty Python fans and those of a certain age might have expected that I might focus on something else, but I have been strangely drawn to the music of my youth in lockdown. 

Sound familiar to anyone?

For some reason, after listening to an “Ian Dury and The Blockheads” song the other day, I felt that another of his songs “Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3” was bound to have some deep philosophical message that I could harness for my blog and decided to investigate further.

I discovered that the song was written and recorded in Italy during a break in their tour, after a sound engineer had nearly been killed by electrocution, and was merely a list of things that made Ian Dury happy, in the circumstances.

The opening lines 

“Why don’t you get back into bed”

“Why don’t you get back into bed”

Which are repeated many times do seem strangely apposite for lockdown in a funny sort of way. A good start I thought!

However, there was nothing more inspirational than admiration for a wacky genius that could include his like for “The Bolshoi Ballet”, “Hammersmith Palais” and “Cheese and Pickle” sandwiches (amongst many other things that I couldn’t possibly print here) all in the same song and persuade us to buy it!!

I did think about a re-write for Covid but you will no doubt be pleased I didn’t. A Burns/Dury Auld Scots/Cockney Slang fusion mix was considered in-appropriate!

On reflection, my reasons to be cheerful are many and I consider myself fortunate in the circumstances.

Part 1

The Livery continues to function, albeit in a very different way.

Zoom and Skype have taken the place of The Sanctuary and Vintners Boardroom but the same feeling of fellowship and sense of purpose exists in the meetings I have been involved in.

We held a Master & Wardens meeting on Thursday past and it was great to reflect on just what is still going on in lockdown, whilst continuing to think of ways to further our engagement with our members in the future.

Our Charity work has been driven right to the top of the agenda and our work with The Drinks Trust has been a source of motivation to further accelerate our work in that field.

As I write this, the Distillers On Line Charity Auction is getting underway and again I feel that is something that we, as Distillers, can be hugely proud of and I hope will be something to make us all cheerful by the end of it.

Grateful thanks to Chris Porter again and also to Liveryman Sukhinder Singh for hosting for us.

We are continuing to engage with our Educator partners and studying ways to develop these relationships in both the short and long-term.

Recent communications from both London Scottish and HMS Montrose illustrate what a great bunch of people we have in our Military affiliates and their interest in our Livery. New CO,s at RNAS Yeovilton and 603 Squadron are opportunities to further expand our network and I look forward to meeting them both soon. Even if its only for a Zoom Dram!! 

Part 2

At a personal level, the cycling training continues at a level that would have been impossible otherwise and we now have 10 riders signed up for our September assault on London. I am definitely cheered by that response. 3 are non-Livery at this stage and certainly one has already expressed an interest in joining!

Whilst I am missing out on the world class hospitality that London Livery events are famous for, and that is a major disappointment, I am enjoying the time to exercise and the benefits that brings.

Part 3

Being at home has also allowed a much deeper appreciation of Nature, in all its glory, all around us here in Auchterarder.

Whether it be seeing and enjoying the Azalea bush coming into bloom from start to finish or the local hillsides alive with yellow broom and witnessing he almost unbelievable vividness of their colour, one realises that one missed much of that in  most other years.

I’ve also been able to spend more time with my dog and she is thoroughly enjoying having everyone at home too!!

  The Comms team have been desperate to have some dog photos in the blog and last month provided just the perfect opportunity. We were joined by a house guest for almost half the month as Jasmine, who is the sister of our three years old Labrador Rosalita, came to stay. This wasn’t a deliberate breach of lockdown as Jazz normally stays here whilst “in season” given the breeding male at home!!

Apart from being virtually identical, they are virtually inseparable. Jazz and Rosa stick together like Lycra (sorry) and provided lots of lovely photo opportunities. Another “Reason to be Cheerful – Part 3”

Finally, I do hope this finds you and you loved ones safe and well.

God Bless

Lockdown, Labradors and Lycra

For inspiration on what to include in my blog I normally turn first to my past month’s diary and  am always surprised at how quickly time has passed and how many of the things I had already forgotten about. This month’s blog was always going to be a challenge and a glance back at the diary revealed nothing whatsoever about what I had actually done but a perfect record of what I didn’t do. Day after day of meticulously planned City events which didn’t take place and I didn’t attend but nothing whatsoever to record what I did during lockdown. I did consider a virtual blog which would have listed the cancelled events for anyone reading this but decided against it and want to start instead by talking about Lycra.

Lycra? You ask! The Master has definitely lost the plot during lockdown I hear you say.

 I suppose that’s probably true – to a certain extent. 

There’s Lycra everywhere, or am I the only one who has noticed? It’s everywhere – walkers, runners, cyclists, men pushing prams, home gyms. You can’t escape it and I have to admit I wear it too. I never thought I would see the day but… there you are. I’ve admitted it.

As I continue to obsess about this amazing fabric aka Spandex (did you know that’s an anagram for expands?) I got to thinking how like lockdown it is. What I mean is, it just adapts. Just like we have all had to. It adapts to all shapes and sizes (no matter how odd these might be) and it quite quickly feels part of us and perfectly normal. Everyone is doing it and as we change shape during lockdown (one way or another!) it changes with us.

My own Lycra wardrobe has expanded considerably since I began to use my allocated daily exercise period to put some miles in on my bike. Some of you might remember that I had planned to ride to London in April as a fund raiser but like everything else this has been postponed  ,until September.

Our comms team have been obsessing about a photo in Lycra for some time so I do hope they are happy with this intro and with the slightly plump vision in the perfectly fitting Lycra trimmed in (as close as I could get) Distillers blue!

On the subject of The Comms team, I would like to say a huge thanks and  pay tribute to Chris S and Paul who along with Kim and Ed have done such an amazing job in keeping us all updated on Livery activities during the lockdown and for contributing to the work of our Covid-19 response Task group. 

The Task group which I mentioned last month continues to be very active and meet on Zoom once a week. The Livery Emergency Auction fund in favour of the Drinks trust is our key area of focus at the moment so if you read this and haven’t already donated a special bottle ( anything alcoholic spirit is welcome or champagne!) please have a look in the cupboard or the cabinet. Thank you.

The Task group normally meets late Friday afternoon and after our meetings normally head to the virtual pub (The Zoom Gordon Arms) for a quick drink together before the weekend. Very enjoyable it is too.

What else to talk about during April?

Well, I turned 60 years old and in lieu of a party had a family Zoom event which was hilarious.

Had hoped to have celebrated with a few more of you but like everything else it will just have to wait until later, whenever that will be?

All in all, lockdown for us has not been too bad and, in fact, some bits of it are a really pleasant change but I also have to keep trying to remind myself that for some there is little pleasant about it.

Aside from those who have lost loved ones who should never be forgotten, there are huge numbers suffering economically. In a small town like Auchterarder where we live, our local Church is distributing food vouchers to over 40 families. In London young people from our trade are actually sleeping rough as their incomes have dried up and they are unable to pay rent. Many small businesses are on the brink of collapse or are deeply worried about an uncertain future, particularly in the On Trade.

I am hugely grateful for the wonderful response by the  Distillers Livery to our appeal on behalf of The Drinks Trust who are trying to help alleviate some of that hardship and want to say a personal thanks to everyone involved and ask you to continue to support our continuing initiatives in this area.

I’m off for a bike run now. Wearing guess what?

God bless and stay safe

Master’s Blog – March 2020

The beginning of March doesn’t seem a month ago.

It seems more like a different age on another planet.

Although Covid 19 was already beginning to raise it’s ugly head and wreak havoc on our Livery plans (more on that later), it seemed still distant and something that was happening elsewhere in the world.

Life in the City of London was more or less normal, other than a few curious individuals who were touching elbows rather than shaking hands.

In fact, the first week of March was one of my busiest so far in this Livery year!!

On Monday 3rd I attended the Derek Melluish Memorial Lecture in St Lawrence Jewry Church given by Blondel Cluff CBE. Blondel is CEO of the West India Committee and her lecture “London The West Indian City” was incredibly informative and focussed on the role The West Indies played in the development of The City of London.

A quick supper with The Upper Warden and the last train home to my Sister in Law’s before a 6.30 next day departure for The West Country! The early morning drive to Plymouth was in the most beautiful early Spring day and we arrived at HMS Devonport with time to spare.

As guests of Commander Ollie Hucker and the Port crew of HMS Montrose, the Liverymen and guests attending as well as The Mistress and I had the most memorable day. We were treated to some great hospitality at lunch in their shore based headquarters and dinner in The HMS Drake Wardroom, but the highlight was , without doubt, being able to witness the sheer professionalism of the young people in the crew first hand as they went about their training exercises. Ollie gave us a presentation before dinner and as well as outlining the capabilities of HMS Montrose he concluded by confirming that The Royal Navy is in good heart and that the addition of our two new carriers, and their extraordinary capabilities, is sending a statement around the world as to Britain’s re-emergence as a maritime power. Encouraging indeed!

A double header lunch and dinner the next day meant that drive back to Ascot after dinner was necessary and thanks must go to The Mistress for her offer drive both ways!!!

Lunch with The Master Mariners on HQS Wellington on the Thames was most enjoyable and again one has to pinch oneself at the sheer privilege of the experiences we enjoy as Masters. Standing on deck with a glass of fizz on a Wednesday lunchtime watching the world go by is a wonderful experience and followed by a splendid lunch it would have been easy to think all was well in the world!  

 Dinner with the Brewers was equally enjoyable and convivial as they entertained a number of other Master’s and their Clerks. Another excellent meal with great food, wines and of course beers!

 It may only have been a day later but one could sense that the mood, as regards Coronavirus, was beginning to change as we met for The Master and Wardens meeting but, even then, we decided on a ”wait and see” approach to future functions and in particular our April Dinner.

Despite the impending crisis, of which we were still unaware of it’s severity, we had a most enjoyable dinner at The Innholders as we entertained the Vintners Master and Wardens and General Manager (Their Clerk unavailable at the last due to an impromptu visit to hospital which I am glad to say he has recovered from). Our Beadle, showing remarkable commitment, needed no second asking to join us for the most exquisite dinner with some cracking wines chosen by our Spirits and Wine team. Our relationship with the Vintners goes from strength to strength.

The next day saw us driving North again and a marathon journey home (10 hours plus) to Scotland.

The Mistress and I were both looking forward to a week at home and a rest over the weekend to re charge the batteries after a full-on week.

You will all know by now I am a fan of Robert Burns and for some reason the events of the following weeks remind me of one of the last verses in his epic poem Tam o Shanter.

Tam tint his reason a’ thegither,
And roars out, ‘Weel done, Cutty-sark!’
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied.
When out the hellish legion sallied.

From a period of socialising to one of our greatest challenges as society in the space of 14 days is barely believable but that was that!!

I did say I would cover more on the impact on my year.

The first huge disappointment was the ultimate cancellation of the Japan Court trip in the early part of the month. A huge disappointment to me and the rest of the Court , as well  as our hosts in Japan.

The second was the cancellation of the April Court and Dinner in Vintners which I was really looking forward to.

From the cancellation of The Lord Mayors Banquet to The United Guilds Service, The Mistress and I received a number cancellation notices from within the City and it would have been very easy to become very sorry for ourselves.

A sense of perspective was however definitely required as we saw the number of Covid cases rise and the death toll increase quickly.

What also became clear was the number of people in our trade (particularly the young) whose employment would be seriously affected.

To that end I was  delighted we were  able to set up a Task Force consisting of the Clerks Office, the Dev Director ,the Charity Committee Chairman, the Wardens, Paul Finch and myself with a view to supporting these individuals through our chosen charity partner The  Drinks Trust (Formerly The Benevolent) who are experiencing an unprecedented level of demand for their services.

Over the last three weeks that group has worked tirelessly in pulling together three separate initiatives in support of The Drinks Trust:

  1. A Charity appeal which at the time of writing has raised over £30k from within our Livery to help contribute to a grant of £50k we will be making to them.
  2. An on-line auction which will take place from  June 7th– 16th with all proceeds going to them. 
  3. The creation of a volunteering support network to help the Drinks Trust.

I have been truly humbled by the level of support and commitment shown by the group and our Livery in these difficult times and am hugely grateful to you all.

I had intended Charity to be a main theme of my year but could never have envisaged the way it is playing out.

I hope you and your families are all staying safe.

God Bless.

Master’s Blog – February 2020

First up in February was a road and boat trip to Alkmaar in The Netherlands where I had been asked as Master to open the 10th Anniversary of The Hielander Whisky Festival. This whisky festival has raised substantial funds over the years for a local Cancer Hospice/Charity The Praethuys in Alkmaar. Having opened the event dressed in Masters Gown, it was a quick change to take my place in the band for the opening event.  Seamless!! I am very much hoping that some of the organising team will travel from Holland to be with us for the drinks party planned later this year on HQS Wellington.

Although Hurricane Ciara was to play havoc with many of the next week’s travel arrangements, we managed to fly out of Amsterdam just ahead of her and made it to Edinburgh for the Informal Lunch at 603 Squadron prior to The Calcutta Cup. Excellently organised by Hon Steward Michael Urquhart , the lunch was a relaxed an jovial affair with 18 attending consisting of Liverymen, families and guests. Thanks, as always, to 603 for generously hosting.

The aforementioned travel havoc started with my car, which was being driven home by other band members, being trapped on board a North Sea ferry for 10 hours longer than anticipated. The delay to our travel south and unavailability of any alternative transport meant the Mistress unfortunately was unable to attend the CLINKS visit to HM Brixton Prison.

I was pleased to make it to London, however in time for Michael Druitt’s memorial service, with a good number of other Liverymen, which was an excellent send off for someone I had known for most of my business life. He will be missed by many.

Later that week I had the slightly nerve wracking pleasure of chairing my first Court meeting as Master before moving on to the February lunch at Girdlers Hall, which proved to be an excellent venue.

The “Burns Night” theme seemed to be well accepted (If not universally understood by those from South of the border!) and I have to say I was delighted with the phenomenal turnout of over 120. It was also an amazing experience to witness the World Premier of the new Distillers song written and composed by The Learned Clerk and expertly sung by Hon Assistant Harris. At a personal level I was delighted to be able to catch up with The Master Brewer, Simon Theakston, on a number of mutual acquaintances and colleagues from our time in S&N

The Mistress and Consorts  enjoyed a splendid parallel lunch in The Vintners Courtroom where they were entertained to  an excellent tour by Steve Marcham who, on completion, high tailed it to The Girdlers to attend the Livery lunch. Commitment indeed!

The Mistress continued to enjoy the City life the following week as guest of The Mistress brewer an I was the happy recipient of a bottle of Theakstons Old Peculiar following the lunch!!

On the 20th of February we entertained Commander Ollie Hucker and three of the crew of HMS Montrose to lunch in Vintners Boardroom where IPM Martin Reilly presented The Sailor of the Year trophies for 2019 and 2020. Ollie also gave a fantastic insight of what it was like in The Gulf, as the ship became the first RN ship to be at full “battle stations” since the Falklands conflict. To say we were “In awe” would be a huge understatement!!

On the 21st February The Mistress and I attended The Mansion House Banquet of The Worshipful Company of Gardeners. A very nice evening with very friendly hosts.

An early morning start on Saturday meant that we were able to drive home in time for (at least) the second half of the rugby!

3 days at home for changes of clothes washing and the Long Distance Master and Mistress (with dog Rosa) were on their way back to London again for a Whisky tasting for our Corporate Freemen Mappin and Webb and members of The Royal Household including The Governor of The Tower of London. The two Master’s casks showed up superbly and were thoroughly enjoyed by all. Thanks to Karl and Mark for inviting us!!

The last event of the month left a deep impression on The Mistress and me. We visited Treloar’s School with The Lord Mayor ,Lady Mayoress and a group of other Livery Masters and Mistresses. Treloar’s is run by The Treolar Trust a Charity set up in 1907 by the then Lord Mayor. It cares for young people with physical disabilities and helps prepare them for adult life, providing education, care therapy and independence training. The young people and their teachers and care assistants were an absolute inspiration and its no surprise that the establishment is rated as ”Outstanding” by both Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. A very uplifting end to the month, made even more memorable by finding that the current Chair of Trustees is a friend of Kathy’s family!

Master’s Blog – January 2020

As I mentioned in the newsletter, it is scarcely believable that I write this with over a quarter of my Master’s year gone already. Time does fly when one is enjoying oneself.

As regards the newsletter, I feel I must mention the quality of the content and production of that publication and thank and congratulate the production team led by Paul Finch for a fantastic job.

After a frenetic December and a lovely Christmas and New Year back home, January started slowly by comparison but still involved two weeks in London.

The first week in town started with internal meetings with the Dev. Director, Assistant Clerk and the Industry Committee and highlighted just how much is going on in our very vibrant Livery..

As the week progressed with a food tasting in Canary Wharf for the February lunch accompanied by Kim and the hugely supportive & knowledgeable Jonathan Orr Ewing I did reflect on the slightly surreal nature of the role. (Thanks also to Jonathan for his excellent jar of marmalade. I may become quite Paddington -like!! What with the marmalade and living out of a suitcase! Ironically Paddington one of the few stations I haven’t visited this month.)

Next up was lunch in the Cavalry and Guards Club hosted by Alan Montague-Dennis with Clive Bairsto, Richard Watling and a prospective Corporate Freeman.

This was followed, after a record-breaking taxi journey to The Sanctuary, by a Interview/Presentation and Freedom Ceremony for a group of new Freemen, again highlighting the Vibrancy and appeal of our Livery.

The next week in London included our Charity meeting, where , amongst other major developments, we discussed the excellent response to our appeal for Charity Volunteering.

Thank you to everyone who responded. This initiative will build on all of the excellent Charity initiatives that are being discussed and continue to boost our Charitable profile.

Last meeting of the week was with Fortnum and Masons and The Dev Director where we discussed the possibility of a Livery visit which we hope will take place over the summer months.

We both left with the legendary F&M Scotch egg (they are delicious!) as a gift and I managed to avoid the very real temptation of eating it on the way to City Airport and the flight home.

The end of January saw The Mistress and I head for the West Coast of Scotland and some of the windiest weather I have encountered. Relaxing nonetheless.

Master’s Blog – December 2019

May I wish all our readers a Happy New Year and trust that everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Having picked up the pen , so to speak, from IPM Martin Riley immediately after the Installation Dinner in November, this December blog is a bit of a bumper edition with content from the end of November too!

The new Master’s year always starts the day before the Installation Dinner and this year was no exception with 4 functions/events attended in the day!

The morning saw us attending The Festival of St Cecilia at Westminster Abbey followed by a wonderful lunch with the other Wardens hosted by Martin and Nicola, who looked much more relaxed than the Master and Mistress Elect. The revelry was cut short as we left for The Lord Mayors briefing and the Lady Mayors afternoon tea respectively!

That would normally be that but the evening saw an invite to a reception hosted by The Lord Mayor for the launch of The Big Curry Lunch at the HAC headquarters on City Road. A journey made by bus in the absence of any taxis!!

Installation day starts with a rehearsal then a Court meeting followed by the Installation Ceremony before the Dinner and then the Dinner itself.

One is swept along during the day and although nervous one is struck by the sheer feeling of goodwill amongst our Livery.

Without the need for an inaugural speech I would have enjoyed the excellent food, wine and spirits so much more but I was fortunate to have the great company of the Master Vintner Chris Davey and chat about some very old times!!

A Post Prandial as guests of The Master Vintner and the inimitable Steve Marcham topped off and amazing day!

A truly memorable day for which I will be always grateful to The Clerks Office, The Vintners Hall and our Spirit and Wine Committee (who jumped through hoops to ensure my choice of wine arrived!).

Kathy my family and my guests had a wonderful time and were all made most welcome!

On the 26th November I attended the Distillers Icicle Golf Day at Beaconsfield. I use the term attended because I would never claim to have “played golf” that day as my long suffering team-mates/partners will attest!

A birdie at the last hole was definitely “ the one that brings you back” and was witnessed by the IPM who had made his way out to present the prizes!

Bryan Burrough was the runaway winner and I sure he will be looking forward to his new handicap!!!

The day was another triumph for the remarkable Golf organising cohort of Keith and Graham who again delivered another excellent year in 2019. We are indeed fortunate to have them both!

The IWSC banquet on 28th November had been  postponed from earlier this year because of a diary clash at The Guild Hall and as such fell into the early part of my year rather than Martin’s. 

The Banquet is a magnificent affair with prize and trophy winners receiving their awards. It never fails to amaze me just how diverse and truly global our industry is, yet, founded on people with remarkably similar values and outlook! Kathy and I were Royaly entertained!!

The IWSC Directors Dinner at Mossimans , the night before, fell into the same category where I was privileged to sit beside the President Sir George Fistonich, founder of Villa Maria!!!!

On the 2nd of December I attended the Admiralty Carol Service in St Martins in The Fields and, after a wonderful service where I sat beside the Australian Military attache, and met a number of other Master’s there for the first time. The familiar looking Master Glover (Wearing white gloves!!) turned  out to be none other than Roger de Courcey, the creator of Nookie Bear!!

The following evening James Higgins and I attended the London Regiment Boxing Tournament ,witnessed the London Scottish contingent acquit themselves very well especially as some were complete novices! I’m delighted to report that the relationship with London Scottish is in excellent health due in no small part to James’s commitment! Afterwards an Uber to the Piccadilly Line, 45 minutes on the tube , sleeper to Glasgow then train to Auchterarder highlights the life of the Long Distance Master!

The next week saw me back at The Mansion House and attending a reception and presentation by CLINKS who are a body looking after Charities operating within the prison system. The harrowing, but also uplifting, stories on display were a very good reminder that the all-out party approach to Christmas, that we sometimes enjoy, is not universal!!

On the 10th December I was invited, along with our Learned Clerk , to the Installation Dinner of  the new Master of The Glass Sellers of London, Richard Katz. The Glass Sellers are fellow members of our “Cask group”. Sitting at the top table I was again was struck by the huge privilege of being Master and with the close links and potential within the “Cask Group”. The dinner was most enjoyable with Christmas carols sung during the dinner.

11th December and I was on my way back North again  (More from the Long Distance Master) and due to attend the Annual Dinner of The Perth High Constables. Sadly, my third cancellation in a row on way North by train meant abandonment in Newcastle, a very indirect journey home via Carlisle and Glasgow, and missing the dinner!

No chances were taken for the Carol Service and we drove south on 14th!!!!!

Two days early, who says I leave things to last minute?!!!!

The Carol Service is one of my favourite events of the year and again this year didn’t disappoint. Rev David Parrott opened a few eyes with his unexpected “body show” but as always conveyed a thought provoking Christmas message. Our Minister from Auchterarder Rev Dr Lynn MacChlery came down as my guest,helped with the service, and was really overwhelmed by the “warm welcome” she received.

We drove home again on the 18th of December to get ready for Christmas and catch up with friends and family at home, amazed at how quickly everything had gone in December!

Christmas and New Year at home seemed like one big party with fair sprinkling of training runs on my bike. Blew the cobwebs away but challenging with some of the weather over the Festive period!!!

I’m back in London now and looking forward to a vey busy January as I write! 

Master’s Blog – November 2019

The month began with the Glass Sellers Mansion House Banquet to which the Mistress and I were invited. A splendid evening where the Master’s guests were accompanied by a brass band playing “Bring Me Sunshine“ on entering the Egyptian Hall.

The week of Remembrance began on Monday 4 November with a service in the garden behind St Paul’s Cathedral. Each Master placed a cross in the field of remembrance on behalf of his or her Company.  The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs were present and the band of the Grenadier Guards accompanied us. The Last Post was sounded and a 2 minute silence observed at 11.00 am as the great bell of the Cathedral tolled. 

In the evening there was a Service of Thanksgiving at St Stephen Walbrook for the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress in recognition of their year of service to the City. This was followed by a reception in the magnificent Wren church with its contemporary round altar. The Church where the Samaritans were founded in 1953.

The following day we had our Joint Event with the Worshipful Company of Marketors held in the Crane  Building in Southwark. The theme was “Alchemy … are we Distillers and Marketors the Alchemists of today ?“

We both take core ingredients – in our case grain or grape and through the magic and mystery of distilling produce exquisite spirit drinks … and Marketors take brands and add value to them thorough original creative ideas and targeted communication.

The guest panel to discuss this was chaired by David Wethey whom I have known for 30 years and is very well known in the marketing and advertising world, having written several business books.

The panel included Diageo Corporate  Freeman Mark Sandys, Global Brand Director for Smirnoff and Baileys, who also very generously provided the Tanqueray Gin and tonic bar for the event. Also Anthony Wilson, a Liveryman who owns a new product development company with the appropriate name of Alkemista.

Andrew Marsden, Past Master Marketor and marketing consultant with a lifetime career in marketing, and Rory Sutherland, Vice President of Ogilvy UK and a well known journalist and author, completed the panel.

The event was sold out and the reception afterwards was an opportunity to talk to each of the panellists. We had a very good presence of our Liverymen and feedback has been positive from attendees from both Companies. We are talking to the Marketors about the possibility of holding a similar event next year.

Later that week I was invited with several other members of our Livery to the Mappin and Webb Royal Household Dinner in Vintners’ Hall. Mappin and Webb are one of our Corporate Associates.

Mark Appleby, Master Craftsman, who was installed as Corporate Freeman at the November 21 Court meeting, is the Crown Jeweller to HM The Queen.  He joins Corporate Freeman Karl Bailey who is Royal Warrant Holder for the Company.

That dinner had been preceded by a Reception at the House of Lords hosted by Helena Conibear and the Alcohol Education Trust celebrating their 10th anniversary.  This is one of the Charities which we support and the Livery was thanked for our continuing commitment and contribution.

The following day was the Silent Ceremony  at the Guildhall. The new Lord Mayor, William Russell, and his entourage were greeted by the assembled  Masters, Aldermen and Liverymen in total silence. The only words spoken were his, when he swore his oath.

The following day was the Lord Mayor’s Show and the Mistress and I had a bird’s eye view from the stand outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Over 100 floats and groups formed the parade with marching bands, military units and representatives of European Guilds.  The Lord Mayor’s coach stopped outside the Cathedral where he stepped outside with the Sword and Mace Bearers and entered the Cathedral by a side door to swear before God.

Following this I had been invited to join the Guard of Honour outside the Mansion House to greet the Lord Mayor on his return from the Royal Courts of Justice. We lined up and the new Lord Mayor descended from his lavishly decorated coach and inspected this line removing his tricorn hat to greet the Masters.

All Masters in the Guard of Honour returned the compliment by doffing their caps to the Lord Mayor. There was one exception.  The Master Distiller. We do not have a cap as part of our formal Livery dress and appear to be unique in this regard. I have discussed this with the Court and I intend to work on a proposal as IPM so that future Masters can doff their caps at appropriate occasions … and not simply nod as I was obliged to
do !

The Mistress and I attended lunch at the Mansion House afterwards and spoke to Alderman Vincent Keaveny who was Sheriff until September this year and is on track to become Lord Mayor in November 2020.

Vincent is an Honorary Liveryman in our Company. If elected as Lord Mayor he will be the first Distiller to do so since 1813 when George Scholey served as Lord Mayor. That is before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815!

The following day is Remembrance Sunday and the Masters of all Livery Companies are invited to attend the Service of Remembrance at St Paul’s and to attend the wreath laying on behalf of all Liveries at the Cenotaph in front of the Royal Exchange.

That privilege is given to the Master Fruiterer as he organised the first official attendance at the service and wreath laying last year on the anniversary of the end of the Great War. This is the second year and the intention is that the tradition will be maintained. It was followed by a lunch at the Guildhall.

Later that week I went to the city of Louvain in Belgium where the Mistress and I were to spend two days in the Company of the Belgian/Swiss Squadron of the Mousquetaires d’Armagnac. It is a lively university city full of medieval buildings and bicycles. Several lavish dinners and receptions were held there before we moved to Brussels for the official grand dinner at the splendid Art Deco hotel La Plaza.

There Leaders of different Squadrons from around the world were present for the installation of 9 new Mousquetaires and a grand dinner was followed by dancing, extensive tasting of Armagnacs and a beer bar serving excellent Belgian beer to be savoured between Armagnacs.

The event finished at 4.00 am but fortunately we didn’t have far to go as we were staying in the same hotel.

The following week there was an important meeting with the Development Director and the Master Elect. This was an opportunity for us to review the projects that the Development Director had undertaken since his appointment earlier in the year.

The Service of St Cecilia, the patron saint of Musicians, took place this year in Westminster Abbey and the choirs of the 3 great London Cathedrals performed.

The service is organised by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and is a highlight of the year as Masters, Wardens and Clerks process in the Cathedral in full Livery dress.

This year it was held in Westminster Abbey and it alternates between there, Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s. 

Following this the Master invited the Wardens and Consorts, the Clerk and Assistant Clerk to a lunch at a well established French restaurant specialising  in the cuisine of  SW France ….And  where armagnac champagne cocktails were the order of the day.

The last day of my year as Master was November 21 and on that day with PM Raines and PM Watling we hosted a lunch for the new Meister of the Zunft zu Rebleuten in Basel, Fabian Bebler, and the previous Meister Edi Etter who is now a Liveryman.  We also welcomed Willeke Vester,  Dekon (Master) of the Guild of the Golden Glass in Schiedam in Holland. Both Fabian and Willeke would receive their Freedom of the Company at the Court Meeting later that afternoon along with Amanda Garnham of the National Armagnac Bureau in France. 

The Installation Ceremony of our new Master Kenny MacKay took place after the Court Meeting and preceded the excellent Installation Dinner. But I will put down my pen now and pass it on to our Master to follow on from here as he writes his first blog. I wish both the Master and Mistress a most enjoyable, fulfilling and memorable year full of yet to be announced events.

Nicola and I have been privileged this year to experience the many fascinating, prestigious  and unique events in the Livery World  and the City and to meet such a wide range of people from varied backgrounds.

We were proud to represent our flourishing Company.

Master’s Blog – October 2019

If September seemed busy – October was supercharged.  It was undoubtedly the busiest month in the Master’s year.  It began with an invitation to the Glovers’ Mansion House Banquet – during which the Mistress and I were each formally presented with a pair of bespoke leather gloves … which remarkably fitted “like a glove”.  The Master Glover had invited us and the Master and Mistress Cook as his personal guests – and made the point in his speech how food and distilled spirits had been key to his appreciation of the year.

The following day was Common Hall – the election of the next Lord Mayor which took place in the Guildhall.  All Livery Masters are gowned and attend a service at St Lawrence Jewry in the presence of the Lord Mayor before processing, in reverse order of precedence, into the Guildhall.

The election itself is an elaborate and time honoured ceremony, resplendent with medieval costumes, and the Town Crier shouting “OYEZ” and all Aldermen and Common Councilmen  from the City of London Corporation being present.  There were 3 candidates and William Russell was selected in a show of hands to be London’s 692nd Lord Mayor – and Head of the City of London Corporation.

Following this the Clerk, Master Elect and myself attended lunch along with Masters of other Livery Companies at the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall.

At 5 pm all Masters attended Evensong arranged by the Musicians’ Company where we sat in the choir stalls of St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a Reception in the Crypt.

The following day I was honoured to be invited to a private celebration by the Hayman family to celebrate Christopher Hayman’s 50 years as a Distiller.  This took place in the Hayman Distillery in Balham which the Wardens and I had ‘inspected’ in July and which had passed with flying colours.  A special edition ‘Rare Cut’ Hayman’s Gin had been produced to commemorate this milestone.

The following Monday it was back to the Guildhall for an evening reception hosted by the Livery Committee to thank Richard Regan the Past Chairman for all his work.  This was attended by a large number of Masters and City Officials.

The Vintage Festival took place the next day, October 8th, at St James Garlickhythe, followed by lunch in Vintners’ Hall.  The Brewers, Vintners and Distillers get together for this rousing service of thanks for the fruits of the earth, which form the basis of our Company products – and the lunch afterwards is a relaxed affair, thoroughly enjoyed by all. 

Later that day we had our inaugural Founder’s Day Event in the Crypt of St Martin in the Fields, where the Memorial to our Founder, Sir Theodore de Mayerne, is located.

The Service of Rededication was performed by our Chaplain, Rev Canon David Parrott, and attended by over 40 Liverymen and members of the Court.  A history of our Company and the role of our Founder was described in speeches by the Father of the Court, Charles Minoprio, and by Liveryman Malcolm Davis.

A commemorative glass to mark the occasion had been produced by Liveryman Raymond Davidson of Cairngorm Glass.  We also presented a cheque for £2,500 for this year’s Master’s Charity to The Connection at St Martin in the Fields – a charity for the homeless and rough sleepers of London for whom St Martin in the Fields have been providing support for over 100 years.

The Brewers’ Lunch at Brewers’ Hall was a most convivial event hosted by the Master Simon Theakston.  It is traditional for the Loyal Toast to be given with a special brew produced by the Master and served in small glasses.  This year was no exception – a Theakston’s at 7.5% strength had been brewed for the occasion.

That same day I was invited to the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights’ Dinner at Skinners’ Hall – one of the most attractive in the City and which has recently been refurbished.  The Wheelwrights are 68th in order of precedence – we are 69th, and so we have got to know each other well during the year, because as Masters we often stand together when we process.

The following day was our Mansion House Banquet preceded by the Installation of a new Grand Rectifier of the Gin Guild, which I performed, and the installation of new members of the Guild performed by Dr Anne Brock, the new Grand Rectifier.  The Gin Guild now has 366 members.

We were honoured to have the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the 2 Sheriffs and their Consorts as our guests.  There were 293 people at the Banquet – a record number for our Company which included members of the Gin Guild and guests of our Liverymen.  The Sung Grace and National Anthem were included in our programme.  The Lord Mayor paid tribute to our Company and our charitable activities.  Our Guest Speaker, Kate Robertson, Co-Founder of One Young World, made a speech about this remarkable international organisation – the “Davos for young people” – whose annual conference would be taking place in London later in the month.  I presented the Lord Mayor with the first bottle of this year’s Master’s Cask Armagnac, and each of the Sheriffs with a Quaich bearing our Company Crest.

The following week I attended the Coopers’ Dinner in Coopers’ Hall – one of the smallest Halls in the City, where our Development Director, Clive Bairsto, had been invited to give the speech on the subject of mentoring and the approach that our Company was taking on this subject.

The Worshipful Company of Art Scholars held a Lecture and Reception the following day on the subject of medieval palaces in the City of London.  This was held in the new Bloomberg Building in the City below which the Roman Temple of Mithras is located and a tour of the Temple had been arranged beforehand.

Southwark Cathedral was the location  chosen for the Memorial  Service to Past Master Simon Leschallas (2010).  Many Liverymen and Past Masters from our Company were present, as were Liverymen of the Vintners’ Company.  Simon had also been Master of the Vintners (2016) and was probably unique in holding both roles.  The Cathedral was packed and the service was warm, moving and inclusive as members of Simon’s family and the eulogy read by his great friend, Bertie Gore-Brown, reminded us of Simon’s many qualities which had made him such a popular and well respected figure in the drinks business.  His sense of humour and fun were highlighted and his conviviality illustrated by the opening of a bottle of Bollinger champagne at the end of the eulogy – and as the cork popped we were all encouraged to raise an imaginary glass to toast the life of a great man.

Bollinger champagne was served at the end of the memorial service in the cathedral – a brand that will be forever associated with Simon.

Later that day the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust was held in Vintners’ Hall.  Ian Harris, Honorary Court Assistant and CEO of the WSET, made a speech which highlighted the remarkable performance of the Trust which the Distillers helped to establish 50 years ago and which now educates 100,000 students annually around the world.  Many eminent members of the international wine and spirit business were present.

The following week we held an informal dinner and then visit to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, at which 15 of our Liverymen were present.  Following the ceremony, the oldest continuous military ceremony in the world –when the Tower is safely locked up for the night – we were invited by the Yeoman Warders to drink in their own pub, located within the Tower, ‘The Keys’.  We left just before midnight, when the Tower gate was reopened to allow us to leave discreetly – giving a fresh perspective on the term ‘A Lock In’.

The Master and Wardens Meeting, which reviews all Company business and progress on projects took place on 24 October and was followed by the Freedom Ceremony for 7 new candidates – all of whom had relevant backgrounds and displayed great motivation for participating in the life of our Company.  They will go forward to take the Freedom of the City of London and then be admitted into the Livery at a future Court Meeting.

I was invited to the annual Guild Feast in Basel of the Zunft zu Rebleuten (Guild of Wine Growers).  This takes place during the last weekend of October and celebrates the wine harvest in the region of Basel.  The Guild was established in 1366 and has many traditions – flags, uniforms, a Guild song and initiation ceremonies for new members.  It took place in the Riding School of a magnificent country house just outside the city.  The Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister was Guest of Honour.

We have had an association with the Guild for several years.  The previous Meister, Edi Etter, is a Liveryman of our Company and served as Meister of the Guild for 15 years.  The new Meister, Fabian Bebler, will receive the Freedom of our Company at the Court Meeting on November 21st.

The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers hosted a Reception for Masters of Livery Companies at which the plans for a new Centre for Music were unveiled which would be located next to Ironmongers’ Hall and form part of a ‘Culture Mile’ in the City, starting with the Tate Modern in Southwark.

By contrast the following day a number of Masters had been invited to a Gallery in Homerton, East London, to attend the opening of an exhibition by Vivienne Havell of the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers.  She created the altar cloth for St Lawrence Jewry on the back of which are embroidered the crests of the Livery Companies for which St Lawrence Jewry is their Company Church – including our own.  The Master of the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers explained how his Company had evolved over the years.

The following day the Lady Mayoress hosted an ‘At Home’ in the Mansion House for all Masters and Consorts of Livery Companies.  She gave a speech in which she highlighted the key points of their year – with the Lord Mayor at her side and nodding in agreement.  The speech was made from her perspective and it was a chance for her to thank the Livery Companies and members of the Corporation and Mansion House staff for the support she and the Lord Mayor had received during their year, which will end on November 8th.

A quick change into Black Tie at the Caledonian Club before joining the Master Elect, Kenny McKay and Steward James Higgins for the London Scottish Hallowe’en Dinner ‘In the Field’ at the Regimental HQ in Horseferry Road.

This is the most important event of the Regiment’s year which commemorates the First Battle of Ypres (Messines Ridge) on 31st October 1914.  The London Scottish were the first volunteer regiment to see action in the First World War.  The Pipes and Drums of the Regiment, the oldest such volunteer band in the world, formed in 1859, wearing their distinctive Hodden Grey tartan uniform, provided uplifting musical entertainment and speeches by the Colonel, Major General Alastair Bruce, and the Guest of honour, Lt General Richard Nugee, and Commanding Officer Major Jamie Barklem, who gave a ‘State of the Nation’ report, were well received.  The London Scottish is part of the London Regiment of Volunteers, the only reserve regiment in the Guards Division, and is in good spirits, proud of their history and the role they perform today.  The first ‘Great After War Reunion’ of the London Scottish Regiment took place at Olympia on 29th October 1919 – 100 years ago.  Major Barklem will take the Company Livery on 21 November.  STRIKE SURE.