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September- October 2020: The Catharsis Continues

September 24 2020. After a week of Arts Scholars inactivity (apart from the traditional email deluge – a Good Thing about being Master is that everyone tells you everything, and copies you in on everything; a Bad Thing about being Master is that everyone tells you everything, and copies you in on everything. A paradox. Discuss), John Benjamin and I visited Grant Macdonald, Past Master Goldsmith and creator of Shrieval chains (and a phenomenal amount more besides), to discuss how best to turn an incredibly long gold chain (found by John Benjamin and generously funded by Roddy Caxton-Spencer) into a suitably impressive Master’s chain. We now wait, with bated breath, to see what he will suggest. Following this, John and I had a remarkably cheery lunch at the Cinnamon Club; he had said this would be scrummy; he was absolutely right. And he’s jolly good company too. And he paid for lunch. All in all, dear diary, a very satisfactory day.


September 29. Michaelmas Day. The traditional day for the election of the Lord Mayor, and Common Hall in Guildhall actually took place. Live. Not Zoom. It’s happened live hundreds of times before, so this should not be a surprise, but in the current climate it was. It was, however, rather different to the ones I have been to in the past. No Guildhall rammed to the rafters with Liverymen cheek by jowl. No mile-long processions of people wearing the Very Best from the dressing up box, enhanced by more bling than would be seen at a coronation. It was a tad subdued. We sat, socially distanced, in a Guildhall sparsely dotted with chairs. It was strangely reminiscent of Tissot’s “Too Early” in the Guildhall Art Gallery – but the room was not to fill up. Sparseness was the watchword; Spartan even more so. We wore masks. We wore no gowns. The Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs entered (in gowns); there was a bit of business; we were asked to vote for the LM to take over in November 2020. We somehow got it wrong, and we had to re-vote before we got it right (I would humbly suggest that we, the voters, did not get it wrong, we were given inadequate guidance).


However, once we had been unsubtly told who to vote for, it all went jolly well, and after a bit more business we were told that we had voted for William Russell, the present incumbent. Well, who’d have thought it? Then the LM said he was jolly glad, and would do his best, and he and the Sheriffs went, and then we all went. And it took 15 minutes from start to finish. A world record. It may have been short, but it was an Event, and the very first time that I had worn the Master’s badge in public – and damn proud I felt too. I wear it a lot around the house, obviously, but a public appearance was really rather nice.


September 30. An Electrician came to fix our wrecked electrics (further to the Second Aquatic Incident on 13 August). When he left, it was worth all those chocolate biscuits – we have real wiring, like other people - no more extension leads everywhere for us – and a smart new fuse box thing. And everything works. Normality in the Spanner household is almost there.


October 1. Today was the annual Arts Scholars Golf Day. Brilliantly organised by Harry Apter. The sun shone, the golfers hit balls with various clubs, into small holes and big ones filled with sand. My golfing knowledge is a trifle hazy, but when they all rolled in for lunch they all looked as though they had had a good time (some more so than others). I was there in my capacity as chauffeur to Mrs S, and as chap presenting prizes – always a lovely thing to do; the Big One went to Ronnie Munro-Ferguson, who is obviously an ace golfer. The lunch was sensationally good. Really, really good. Denham Golf Club should do all they can to keep that chef.


October 5. Today, I did not go to the Farmers’ lunch. I’ve actually Not Gone to quite a lot of stuff, but that one was the one I optimistically thought, some time ago, would be the beginning of a life of excess. How wrong can you be?


October 6. Deborah Charles organised a zoomy Events Committee meeting. This wouldn’t normally have been necessary, but our social programme has been rather unfortunately banjaxed kiboshed (what’s the word that people think ”decimate” means? Wrecked will have to do), so we discussed various ways forward, and did come up with some possible events to replace the lovely live ones. Zoom, of course, but we’re all getting rather used to this. When it ended I felt pretty positive for once. Hooray. And how nice to see Arts Scholars again, even if only on screen; cheers one up immensely. Sorry, by the way, about starting sentences with “and”. I know it’s wrong, but there are times when you just want to go crazy and break the rules of civilised society. This is my rebellion. Man.


October 7. More lovely Arts Scholars on screen, this time a Trustees’ meeting, at which we discussed matters which, again, left me with a feeling of positive optimism (for the Trust, that is, not for mankind). I did not go to the Glovers’ banquet today, but (annoying dramatic pause) we did have the kitchen flooring fitted. Luxury Vinyl actually, and jolly nice it is too. The kitchen is back to normal!


October 14. It should have been the Mithras lecture today, but instead we had some cheery geezers fitting our hall, stairs and landing carpet. They were surprisingly undemanding in the chocolate biscuit stakes, but they did do a lovely job. We now have carpet, carpet everywhere (except for the kitchen, obvs). We now have a house that is back to normal – i.e. just like it was on the morning of July 18, except with newer flooring. Yessss!!! [Inadequate written representation of that clenched fist leap into the air beloved of journalists reporting on A level results].


October 15. The Educators’ zoom seminar – The Arts, Education and Social Inclusion – by Arts Scholars Liveryman Chris Smith. Gosh, he was good. Great speaker, answered all the questions skilfully, no wonder he was such a great Secretary of State.


October 17. Mary’s birthday. We had lunch by the river in Streatley with my Mother. Lovely! Yes, there’s that watery theme again, but you have to confront your fears.


October 22. Today was to be the Arts Scholars’ visit to the Museum of Brands. It wasn’t (now postponed until 2021) and we had a zoom Pocket Lunch (the third one) instead. These are getting better and better – and they were really good to start with. I thought I had the basics of Zoom taped, and confidently admitted a cheery crowd onto the screen; apart from the final three. Could I let them in? Could I heck (pardon the profanity). In the end I had to hand over control to Bernadine Brocker, leave the meeting, and come back.


When I came back, all was serene (Thank you Bernadine. Very much!) After that rather lacklustre start, it all went swimmingly, 23 on screen, 13 presenters (and a proliferation of stuffed animals. It’s Nigel Israel’s bear inviting all his mates if you ask me) and we had the usual array of arcane objects, some of which would have actually fitted into a pocket. A Bellarmine, a bust of Byron (looking like a young, cool, Elvis), a Hindu clockwork automaton (weird but compelling) and, as they say, much much more. The teddies were obviously there for Sonya Zuckerman showing Michael’s teddy, pre- and post hospitalisation. What else was shown? You should have been there. Be at the next one.


There will be more of this (who started this Blog business? Blame him).

Until our next merry meeting (oh please let it be live!) cheery greetings to all Arts Scholars.


John Spanner

October 27 2020




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