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October – December 2020: In Which Mr Pooter Keeps Pootling On

My last blog ended with the cheeriest and jolliest of Pocket Lunches (or as cheery and jolly as one can get whilst sitting in front of a screen), and this one will end with another cheery and jolly Pocket Lunch; despite appearances, this stuff isn’t just thrown together you know.

October 26 2020. Today was to have been the annual Arts Scholars’ Livery Dinner – a sea of cheery souls (4 uses of “cheery” in a few lines; shows a complete lack of imagination. Mr C.A. “Birdie” Nightingale would have given me a C minus), elegantly quaffing champagne from delicate flutes whilst sharing amusing anecdotes about scholarly artistic matters. The Beautiful People doing what they do best. Then dining by candlelight in an ancient and creaky Livery Hall, whilst sipping delicious wines and sharing more entertaining bon mots. Well, that didn’t happen, but it would have been extremely nice if it had. So I went to the dentist instead, which involved walking past Tallow Chandlers’ Hall rather than dining in it. On balance, I would have preferred Plan A.

November 4 2020. Today was to have been (I won’t to this again) the annual dinner of the City Livery Club, to which Mary and I had been invited by the exuberantly generous new President, Nic Somers. Well, that didn’t happen either, but it was replaced by the intriguing concept of a zoomy cocktail party, which actually worked rather well; all you had to do was to provide your own booze and chic canapes (things on sticks / crisps), sit in your own house, and get drunk whilst chatting to a group of other people sitting in their houses, eating their own canapes, and drinking their own champagne. We did – we chatted and drank, and lost the Wi-Fi signal, and changed from iPad to PC, and got the Wi-Fi back, and drank a bit more and although I can’t remember too clearly, it was jolly good fun. And so to bed.

November 10 -12 2020. Arts Scholars Committees. Rather comforting to realise that something normal is continuing in the Covid world (I am doing my best to avoid using the term “these str*nge ti*es”) – normal in the sense that the Committees still meet, still conduct their business with cheerful efficiency, and are dedicated to keeping the Arts Scholars going, almost as if nothing was wrong. This is vaguely possible with some committees, but is a bit tricky with Events. However, they are arranging lots of zoomy delights which will entertain us until the day comes when we can put trousers on and meet in public.

November 16 2020. The Association for Art History’s “Ways of Seeing” conference. What, I hear you cry, was the appeal of this? Anne Rogers-Haley, that’s what. She was the first speaker – on the Monuments Men (remember the not very good film with George Clooney? Those guys). She was a stellar performer, and it was a great shame that it wasn’t live. Even more impressive, she spoke at about noon, but was speaking from America, which is a long way away, and the time difference is, like, hours. Admittedly it’s the east coast, which is a bit closer than somewhere that’s not on the east coast, but I was highly impressed that she looked so chic, and spoke so lucidly, at a ludicrously early hour. There’s dedication for you.

November 17 2020. A zoomy meeting of the Past Masters (which includes the current Master and Wardens), these are the august crowd who ensure that the Arts Scholars stay on the right track, and they do a jolly good job. Yet again, great to actually see some Arts Scholars, including those Past Masters whose names are usually only mentioned in hushed and revered tones.

November 18 2020. Went to the Glaziers’ lecture. Actually, I didn’t “go to” anything; I sat right here, but I suspect you know what I mean. And actually, it wasn’t a Lecture, it was a Webinar; well, that’s what they called it, but it looked pretty much like a Lecture to me. And it was a pretty cheery way to spend an hour or so on a damp Wednesday evening. It was a Pugin vs Tiffany (the jeweller, not that 80s singer) event. Will this rivalry ever be resolved? Yes. We voted. Pugin won. Obviously. We’d had the burglar alarm serviced in the morning, so it was quite a memorable day all round. I really must get out more. If only I could get out more.

November 25 2020. Another day crammed with incident. An Arts Scholars Trustees’ meeting (more zoomy dedicated Arts Scholars; some nice cheery chat – and we did lots of useful Trustee stuff as well), was followed by a briefing by the Lord Mayor, including turns by the LM, Chairman of the Livery Committee, and the Town Clerk. It was good to feel part of The City again, albeit briefly. It was, of course, virtual; they were in Mansion House, and I wasn’t (nor was anyone else for that matter; it wasn’t personal).

November 26 2020. A red letter day. The Arts Scholars wine tasting. It was almost like a real event (I think the booze helped). Wine had been delivered days before, and we all (oenophiles and alcoholics) sat in eager anticipation, surrounded by bottles and glasses. Francis Flavin from Davys took us through tasting and comparing in a remarkably entertaining and knowledgeable way, and we had a brilliant evening. I, for one, can’t wait to get back to Davys as soon as I can; there’s a bottle of Pouilly Fumé with my name on it.

December 3 2020. City Livery Club Lunch followed by an Arts Scholars’ Court meeting. Lunch was brilliant (Cheers, Nic!) – delivered the day before in a box, and eaten on the day in front of an iPad screen, with a load of other iPaddy revellers. A joyous occasion, again almost like a real event (again, the booze probably helped), although I had to take it easy to be highly alert and frighteningly on the ball for the Court meeting. I like to think I was; the Court may disagree, but I did have the joy (and terror) of chairing my second Court, and we did get through a surprisingly long and involved agenda with minimal agitation, and a lot of good humour.

December 4 2020. The final element in the Burst Pipe Saga; two scrofulous sofas removed, and two new sofas delivered. Normality reigns at last.

December 7 2020. The Museum of London zoomy talk on St Thomas Becket by Hazel Forsyth. A great talk, a bottle of beer, and a feeling of great contentment.

December 8 2020. Mary played golf with the FAGS, as the guest of Simon Berti, at Woking Golf Club, and had a great time, sunshine, chips, and turkey sandwiches. I went to the AS lecture by Marc Meltonville on “The Christmas Table”. Brilliant! A class act if ever there was one. It was a joy to listen to (and watch) and Marc cheered up another gloomy evening with the cheeriest and most entertaining of talks.

December 12 2020. In a lucky interval between lockdowns, we took my Mother to lunch by the Thames at Streatley again. Salmon on plate. Ducks and swans on the river. Sunshine. Hydrophobia abating.

December 17 2020. The fourth virtual Pocket Lunch. More attendees than ever. More zoomy chaos than usual - my screen sharing went a tad awry (despite much rehearsal) and there was the usual “you’re on mute”, developing into “YOU’RE ON MUTE!!” from time to time. But, hey, that’s show biz (and, hey, that’s Zoom). And the usual cracking lot of objects, including Arthur, the articulated monkey, a learned paper on the diseases of teddy bears, some delectable Chinese silk, and a wine muller. It was that perennial combination or erudition, lunacy, and entertainment that makes the Arts Scholars so great.

Happy Christmas! Happy New Year! Festive greetings to all Arts Scholars! Stay safe, over-indulge, and we shall meet in 2021. Which will be nice.

John Spanner

December 18th 2020




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Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the author of this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars or its members.

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