Monday 20 February 2012

The 25th Annual Tacitus Lecture at the Guildhall

I joined 800 guests at this annual lecture, sponsored by the Worshipful Company of World Traders, which has become a firm fixture in the City calendar. This year the speaker was Terry Smith* and his theme was “Is Occupy Right?” His short answer was “how would you know?” as the messages are not coherent.

However, he then embarked on a forensic and entertaining analysis of the history of financial services in the City and abroad from Big Bang (in the City that is) in the 1980s and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 in the USA and the consequences of both.

I worked in the City in the 1980s before and through Big Bang and the changes were overwhelming and not all benign. It would be silly of me to try and summarise the detail of the lecture but I urge you to read it on the World Traders website.

His recommendations to cure the ills we are currently suffering may seem radical but he made a very compelling case and has given me, and I am sure everyone else there, much food for thought.

* Terry Smith is the Chief Executive of Tullett Prebon plc, one of the largest inter-dealer money brokers in the world which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and also the CEO of Fundsmith, a Fund Management business he launched in November 2010.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Royal Connections at the Royal School of Needlework

Monday February 13 started off quietly enough with a committee meeting followed by lunch. Thanks to research done by our Learned Clerk he located a hostelry (OK a wine bar) where they were offering a birthday discount on champagne to the value of the birthday. There have to be some benefits for growing older and happily one of our committee was celebrating his 70th birthday – need I say more? Pity it was only 70!

On a more sober (but very enjoyable and interesting) note I went to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court in the evening to attend the launch of their Royal Connections Exhibition, opened by their President, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester. The RSN has a long tradition of working for royal occasions, up to and including the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, and has worked items for every coronation since Edward VII.

It is an interesting exhibition with over a hundred items. Not all of these are needlework – it includes the invitation of the Chief Executive to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last year where she and the senior project manager represented the RSN and its part in this event.

The Duchess opened the exhibition with a charming speech also conveying the good wishes of Her Majesty who is the Patron of the RSN.

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, the Duchess’ mother-in-law, was a stitcher and the exhibition contains a thread and needle holder that belonged to her as well as a chair seat that she was working on at the time of her death. I mention this as the Needlemakers presented Princess Alice with a needle case on the occasion of her marriage and we have a most charming letter from her thanking us in our archives.

I was particularly delighted and touched that when I was introduced to the Duchess she knew about this and remarked on the needle case. She commented that some of the needles were so fine that you wondered how they were ever threaded. As a stitcher herself she will have taken particular note of this.

There were some of my fellow Masters there, representing other Companies that support the RSN. The Needlemakers supports students at the RSN with a number of prizes and we are planning to arrange a visit later in the year.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Your life is in their hands

One of the most interesting and specialised small museums in London is housed in the Royal College of Surgeons – the Hunterian Museum. It is certainly worth a visit and children find it fascinating.

However, our visit on February 2 was not to the Museum but to have lunch with three of the Needlemakers’ five bursary award winners at the College. These bursaries are given to young surgeons to pay for travel and training in their area of specialisation at a crucial time in their careers. It is very competitive and applications come from across the UK. Apart from the value of the training the award is a prestigious addition to their CVs. Applications come from across the UK and although the money is not huge it is quite targeted.

As always the winners were very impressive and we were treated to lunch with them, the President and the Directors of Education and Development. No such thing as a free lunch – each award winner had to make a brief presentation on what the training involved. Our lives will definitely be safe in their hands.

The photo shows the President, Mr Norman Williams, the Senior and Junior Wardens and me, and the award winners Mr Ross Davenport, Mr Nick Symons and Mr Ishtiaq Rahman.

Some interesting links: History of the College and virtual tours.