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January - March 2022: Eating, Eating, Always Eating

Normality has returned, and I have been proudly (some might say hubristically) representing the Arts Scholars at various City do’s, swanking about with our rather superior Master’s badge around my neck. And in the downtime, between the orgy of feasting, there’s always the reading-in (Be Prepared), and the emails. Always the emails. I need a secretary.


January 24 2022 To Barber-Surgeons’ Hall for a remarkably cheery Charities Supper with the Management Consultants. Supper? It was a jolly fine dinner, and the Management Consultants are extremely welcoming, and all in all it was a great start to the week.


January 25 To Painters’ Hall for the Installation Court dinner of the Clockmakers. Another evening awash with champagne, great food and great company. This job really is the bee’s knees; it may not be good for the liver, but it’s great for my ego – I bask in the fact that the Arts Scholars are held in high esteem among the other liveries (and quite right too)


January 31 The Big One. The Arts Scholars’ Banquet. A pretty full Plaisterers’ Hall, a sea of smiling Arts Scholars faces, a shedload of other Masters, and The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress too. Brilliant! Traumatic, but brilliant. We arrived in plenty of time to allow a chill out period before the receiving line; perfect planning – if only I had not left my gown at the Guildhall. 15 minutes later, rather less chilled out than I had hoped, I was back at the hall, this time with the gown, and somewhat out of breath. Don the gown, bung on the bling, and we’re off. After that it was all a bit of a blur, and following my speech I felt a great wave of relief, and a rather perverse desire to do it all again. Lurched back to Guildhall in euphoric mood and slept like a log.


February 1 Ambled to Carpenters’ hall for a Glovers’ Court meeting, followed by lunch. A slack day, with no responsibilities (and the schadenfreude of seeing another Master having the traditional Master’s panic)


February 3 More food. Lunch at Farmers’ and Fletchers’ Hall with the United Wards Club (and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress; they certainly get about a bit). At last I have dined in every hall in the City, F&F were the elusive final one. Now to start all over again.


February 7 Entertained at home by zoom, along with a screen full of other eager Arts Scholars, by David Glasser. A brilliantly provocative and entertaining talk on “Museums; tomorrow’s world arrived yesterday”. If you missed it, you certainly missed a treat


February 9 Mary and I had a very sparky lunch with Paul and Sally Viney at the Garrick Club. Can it get any better than this? Probably not. Great company and very Arts Scholars surroundings in what is most definitely London’s best club, with that great combination of loucheness and elegance; an oasis of tranquility with a sea of tourists just outside.


February 11 Another Arts Scholars Fish & Chips lunch (see Nov 26; it was the same). Fish, chips and jolly company. The perfect Friday lunch, and the perfect excuse for snoozing away the rest of the day in a replete and slightly befuddled state.


February 15 – 17 Arts Scholars’ committee meetings, all of which went rather well (i.e. no acrimonious debates or fisticuffs); we continue to be in safe hands and I’m proud to be the temporary boss of so many dedicated and enthusiastic committee members. On Wednesday evening we went to Plaisterers’ again for a celebration dinner for Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman, attended by members of her 7 Livery Companies. More fizz, more food, and more cheery company. The train home was on time; shame the train up to town wasn’t – there was the traditional “signal failure” and we arrived, via a frantic taxi dash, with 5 minutes to spare, in rather less relaxed mode than we would have hoped. I’m beginning to believe that there’s a jinx on me and Plaisterers


February 23 The Anthology at the Art Workers’ Guild; another very Arts Scholars venue, with a great crowd of seekers after knowledge, this time on Lord Nelson, the Hero of Trafalgar (and many other battles beside). We heard of his porcelain, his medals, his tomb, his column in Trafalgar Square, and his chelengk, and all in all it was a sheer delight from beginning to end. What a guy! Anyone who has a clockwork diamond encrusted badge in his hat gets my vote – and we actually saw the replica chelengk too. I want one. And why does my spell checker not accept chelengk? It’s a pretty normal word, surely. And we had things on sticks and wine afterwards, with some jolly chat; the ideal Arts Scholars event – entertaining erudition and some booze.


February 24 A meeting of the Past Masters’ Committee at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. I’m afraid I cannot reveal the matters discussed, but you can take it from me that they were all jolly important. Then a beer with the Clerk in the Jamaica (a nice slack interval), followed by a meeting of the Trustees at Furniture Makers’ Hall (superior coffee and biscuits) where I am sure we made a number of incisive decisions.


February 25 Lunch with Graham Barker at the Oriental Club. We put the world to rights over a rather good curry (the logical, and best, thing to eat there), and I lurched off home in the traditional post-lunch euphoria.


March 3 The Arts Scholars’ Court; my 7th in the chair, and they are coping awfully well with me – perhaps because they know my time is nearly over. The day before was a sea of paperwork, in the optimistic hope that I had covered every possible point that might be raised. I was wrong (as always) but flexibility is my middle name. Some good discussion from the keen brains of the Court, followed by a relaxing dinner in the Private Dining Room (more fizz; more food; more erudite chat), and so to bed, with a remarkably relaxed mind.


March 8 A guided tour of Dr Johnson’s house (the dictionary chap. Yes. I know he wrote loads of other stuff, but the dictionary’s the thing, the rest of his output is, to put it bluntly, a bit heavy), followed by lunch at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, at the Johnson table. Beer, pie, cheery chat, and more snoozing on the train.


March 10 Dinner with the Unmuteables, the Past Masters’ Association that would have been formed at Ironbridge in 2021 – but wasn’t because of you know what. At Leathersellers’ (a spiffy new hall) with the traditional sea of champagne, great food, etc etc. And there’s a bus stop just outside that goes to London Bridge station (the buses, not the bus stop; I could have phrased that better). Yes, a bus. Man of the People, that’s me (Man with Old Person’s Bus Pass is me, too).


March 14 The Modern Companies’ Dinner at Watermen’s Hall. As the representative (with the now Master-Elect) of the most modern of the modern companies, I felt very at home at this. A select crowd of hedonists and lotus eaters, quaffing champagne and eating a great dinner. The speeches were rather good too (they aren’t always; “entertainment” seems to be a missing bullet point for many speakers). Home, yet again, in a very relaxed state; possibly almost horizontal.


March 15 2022 The Arts Scholars’ Pocket Lunch at Guildhall. Having chaired a number of zoom PLs, it was a delight to have the real thing at last. There were 28 attendees, of whom 16 were speakers, so they all had to be brief, and to cope with the clattering of crockery in the background. Bravura performances all round, with some intriguing objects produced from (in some instances) quite large pockets, and proving that among the Arts Scholars we have members who can talk on virtually any “arty” subject you care to name, with both erudition and passion. We actually finished at 3pm as planned. Just.


March 24 The City of London elections. A traumatic day for some; I know how they feel. Schadenfreude again.


March 25 Fish & Chips. See Feb 11, cos it was the same.


Enough, I hear you cry. There will be more, though. One more.


To our next merry meeting!


John Spanner

28 March 2022

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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.