Monday 12 December 2011

Christmas Cheer in the Hunterian Museum

It doesn’t sound very Christmassy to be celebrating with drinks and snacks surrounded by skulls, skeletons and odd things in bottles. However, if you attend a Christmas drinks party at the Royal College of Surgeons you will be.

I was very happy to represent the Needlemakers Company at the annual Christmas drinks party at the College on Wednesday December 7. We sponsor young surgeons with travel bursaries through the College every year, something which is greatly valued as they exit their very expensive and lengthy years of training. I was delighted to meet members of the Council, other sponsors and some of the people who work at the College and the Museum. (I have a personal interest too as, when I was with Breast Cancer Campaign, we sponsored the tutor for the advanced breast surgery courses which the College ran at a time when few surgeons were choosing that as a field of study.)

If you have never visited the Hunterian Museum it is an exceptional collection, superbly presented. They also run excellent programmes for children during the holidays – so have a look.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Needlemakers’ Carol Service with the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers

For the first time this year we had a combined service with the G&S Wyre Drawers on Tuesday, December 6. It was a very joyous occasion with the honours and duties shared out amongst the two companies, our respective chaplains and the Priest-in-Charge at our home church, St James Garlickhythe.

The church is a beautiful 17th Century Church occupying a place that has been sacred since 1100. Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt St James in 1683 to be full of light, since when it has become known as ‘Wren’s Lantern’. It is not a very large church and between the two companies we filled it comfortably. The choir was in excellent form – as was the congregation.

It is a tradition of our company that we bring gifts to put under the Christmas tree, which are then distributed to underprivileged children. It was lovely to see a pile of beautifully wrapped presents each with a removable label indicating for what age child it is suitable.

We then walked to a local restaurant for an excellent and very jolly dinner. On a personal note it was lovely to spend some time with Vernon Knapper, the Master G&S Wyre Drawer and Christina (she and I share a passion for crime fiction). It was also good to catch up with the Needlemakers’ Chaplain, the Rt Reverend Christopher Chessun, The Bishop of Southwark, about his recent visit to Zimbabwe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I spent five years at a Church of England school in South Africa and enjoyed the carol singing there and enjoyed hearing some familiar songs and some new ones on Tuesday. Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi told the Scottish Parliament “Jewish and other faith communities love the fact that Christians celebrate Christmas. When I go to Trafalgar Square and hear carols being sung I feel uplifted.” I agree with him – where religious institutions preach love and caring for others does it matter what denomination they are? We are alone with our thoughts when we pray.

Whether the next few weeks are ‘shop till you drop’, time in church, candles and chocolate money for Chanukah or just a few days off work with family and friends – may they be peaceful and time to recharge your batteries.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Celebrating 600 years of the Guildhall and 1000 years of the City of London

I don’t want you to think that my life as Master at the moment is one long social whirl – it is, but I just don’t want you to think that. I am managing to squeeze some work in as well but perhaps I will write about that at another time.

Monday, December 6, was a lecture at Guildhall by Dr Simon Thurley, CE of English Heritage, to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Guildhall. He also wrote and presented the TV series, The buildings that shaped Britain, and brought the same verve and scholarship to this subject as he did to that. This was followed by a reception where the canapés were derived from recipes marking the different centuries. (I didn’t have the 20th Century canapés, which looked suspiciously like prawn cocktail, but the 19th Century was Beef Wellington, of course.)

There was so much information packed into Dr Thurley’s lecture that I can’t even scratch the surface. The Guildhall is certainly a treasure of the City – a treasure in stone. It is the oldest secular building in the City – how many buildings built 600 years ago are still in use for their original purpose? It was part of a campaign of civic and public improvement started in the first half of the 15th century and was commissioned by the then Mayor, one Richard (aka Dick) Whittington. There have been changes and improvements since then but the Guildhall is still not only the physical heart of the City, sitting over Bank station, but also the civic heart.

This was followed by the launch of, London 1000 Years, Treasures from the Collections of the City of London, by David Pearson, Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries at the City of London Corporation. The City Corporation is the custodian of a significant part of the nation’s and particularly London’s heritage. Its records go back to the Norman Conquest in almost unbroken sequence. You can access images of every major London event, for example, from paintings of the Great Fire of London to the Blitz during WWII.

Some of the treasures were on display including a very poignant letter from John Keats to his fiancée, Fanny Brawne, after the onset of the TB which eventually killed him telling her not to visit him today - Keats House in Hampstead is managed by the Corporation. There was also the Lloyds loss and casualty book showing the entry covering the fate of the ship, the Mary (Marie) Celeste.

The book brings us right up to the present time as the archives also include very moving letters and notes pinned up at various sites in London after the bombing of the Underground in 2005 and more cheerfully a very early book by Fanny Cradock and review notes of the book by Elizabeth David.

The Future of Digital – Worshipful Company of Marketors Annual Lecture

There are a number of things to you can do to persuade people to attend your events: two of them are - have a stunning venue and have a world-class speaker who they would never otherwise get to hear. The Worshipful Company of Marketors did both on Friday, December 2nd.

The venue was the magnificent Goldsmiths’ Hall. I have been there several times and anyone can visit their special exhibitions but any excuse to go back – it is a stunning venue.

The speaker was Jeannette Liendo, the Global Director, Corporate Marketing for Microsoft. She is a most impressive individual with a truly global view having lived on several continents and worked in a range of markets. We know that it is free enterprise that will drive the recovery and this is dependent on the vision to innovate. I liked the quote she used from Theodore Levitt, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” We have a long history of innovative science in the UK – not such a good history of exploiting it commercially to its full potential.

I will share a secret with you: in my days as an analyst during the technology boom of the eighties, the techspeak of the management of companies sometimes outran my knowledge. I would write notes as fast as I could and find the technical information afterwards. Companies would always say that they had leading edge technology – we also said that it was bleeding edge technology – bleeding away the money.

However, back to the lecture: we were shown the future of computing and communication and about two thirds of the way through I was lost – and my writing skills could not keep up. The answer is in the Cloud. If you want to learn more look at Microsoft Innovation.

I did reflect that Bill and Melinda Gates in their charitable work are very similar to the wealthy benefactors of times past who not only gave substantial amounts of money but also had a vision of how that money could transform society. It is beyond giving to charity it is having a vision of how the world could be different, in their case a vision of a world without malaria. I am reminded of Sir Henry Wellcome who left all the shares in his company to found a trust, which today celebrates its 75th anniversary. Similarly the Livery Companies had a huge impact on education in this country with the founding of many schools – and still continue.

Much to think about and congratulations to the Marketors for arranging such a stimulating evening!