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December 2020 – March 2021: Adrian Mole – The Zoom Years

This is Blog No 6, which led me to wonder, at a rather late stage, if I was doing it right. I did a bit of research (not all that scholastic; I googled “blog”), and learned two germane facts. 1 – “Anyone can create a blog”, and 2 – it is “written in an informal or conversational style”. So, me rambling on is pretty much what a blog is; anyone expecting erudition will be disappointed. We left off the event-filled life of a Livery Master in mid-December. Cut to shot of calendar pages floating off wall calendar . . . December 18 . . .19 . . .20 . . . .

December 25 2020. Christmas Day. Mary, my mother and I sit down at a table groaning with festive stuff, including the world’s biggest turkey. We always buy a mega turkey, to feed a mega family; old habits die hard, but it does look jolly cheery, and properly Christmassy, even if we will all be eating turkey for the foreseeable future.

December 26 2020. Turkey for lunch; turkey for supper. Alcoholic haze

December 27 2020. See entry for December 26

December 28 2020. Sam Moorhead’s brilliant zoomy Arts Scholars’ talk on Saturnalia, reminding us all of how excessive and exuberant we shall be in 2021 (DV). One of the many joys of the Arts Scholars is that we have what seems to be a bottomless pit of charismatic experts, with the ability to impart nuggets of knowledge with impeccable delivery and enthusiasm (Eat your hearts out, other Livery Companies. Arts Scholars Rule!). This cheered up a bleak day beautifully, and led seamlessly into [see entry for December 26].

January 7 2021. Cynthia Coleman-Sparke continued the tradition of brilliant zoomy talks (see flowery prose above) by entertaining us with “Faberge; objects of desire”. You can say that again – this Faberge guy was seriously good – and so was she.

January 23 2021. Covid jab. Well, the first half of it. The end of the beginning, or beginning of the end, or something. Anyway, it’s a positive sign, and I was given a very smart sticky badge to wear. It fell off. I hope that isn’t an omen. There was a lot of Arts Scholars’ stuff during January, but it wasn’t very blogworthy. Emails and phone calls, and arranging and cancelling things. And muttering a lot, and filing paperwork. Administration is a great comfort blanket when you’re not allowed to go anywhere; even going out of doors is a bleak and dispiriting experience – unless, of course, relentless drizzle is your thing. And there was a lot of non-Arts Scholars stuff too, but it all comes down to either zooming or typing. And muttering.

January 27 2021. A Good Day. Actually put on a suit (inc trousers), tie (yes, and shirt; don’t be pedantic), and the Master’s Badge, and with the zoomy support of Graham Barker (Mr CPPU Liaison) and the Clerk met Lt Col Tim Purbrick, Commander of the Cultural Property Protection Unit, and formally signed and exchanged (technical wizardry) copies of the affiliation document. The CPPU, as any fule kno, are (in loose terms) the Monuments Men; an affiliation with them is extremely logical, will prove to be of great benefit to both organisations, and I’m looking forward to a bit of live liaison as soon as we can..

February 8 2021. Another great Arts Scholars’ zoomy entertainment. Ian Swankie on the world’s most expensive art. A compelling countdown of the maddest prices for art – and the people who bought the artworks (I bet they shop in Waitrose). There is some serious money out there. Whether it is all owned by people with taste is a matter for heated discussion sometime.

February 11 2021. A zoomy meeting of the Regalia Committee to discuss, inter alia, the design for the chain for the Master’s badge. In a frightening and frankly unexpected mood of unanimity, the committee approved a combination of restraint and bling. Why unexpected? I hear you cry. Well, anyone who has ever been on any committee to discuss the design for a new club tie will be aware that the “stripes, or no stripes” discussion can go on for months; and that’s before we’ve had the discussion on width, and colour. And material of course. So – a brilliant display of solidarity by the committee. Now to get a quote from that nice Mr Macdonald.

February 12 2021. Went to the dentist. In the City. It (the City) was scarily quiet, eerily reminiscent of those so bad they’re good 1960s sci-fi films where aliens have taken over the earth. Trains still ran on time, though.

February 16-18 2021. It’s Arts Scholars’ committee time, and a very welcome chance to see, and talk to, dozens of Arts Scholars on screen, and to ensure that the Company is on track. Suddenly, the camaraderie kicks in, and I am part of a number of groups of people selflessly doing what they can for the Company, being frustrated by The Plague, and showing amazing resilience, and determination to Carry On (in the wartime rather than the Peter Rogers’ films sense).

February 23 2021. A zoom rehearsal of what will be the zoomy Anthology in two days’ time. If we can all remember to unmute at the right time, it will be a belter. You’d think we would all be up to speed on the old “I’m going to speak now, so I’ll turn off the mute button” concept. You would be wrong. It’s not just an Arts Scholar thing, it’s omnipresent; ubiquitous, even. We are rather better than most, actually, and it does add that frisson of excitement to any zoom.

February 25 2021 It’s The Anthology; the long awaited portmanteau session on the topic of The Obsession of Collecting. Impeccable. Great presenters (see my unctuous, hopefully not oleaginous, descriptions of AS speakers in this and earlier blogs), with great material, and all really proving the point well known to all of us – having just one of something is all right, but why not try to own ALL of them?

Huge thanks to all the mad collectors who contributed – John Hawkins, John Andrew, Sonya Zuckerman, Gaby Robertshaw, Jonathan Gestetner and Billy King Harman. Weirdest collection (so far) – John H’s baby teeth jewellery. Jaw dropping (no dental / maxillary / mandibular pun or connection intended). The Anthology was preceded by a Past Masters’ Meeting, but I cannot reveal any of the secret matters discussed therein. The Mafia’s omerta has nothing on the Past Masters.

February 26 2021. A meeting of the Trustees, at which we disbursed a lot of money, and discussed the possibility of disbursing even more later this year. How lovely.

March 1 2021. More zooming, with Tim Schroder’s talk on Henry VIII’s kunstkammer (I may casually drop this word into conversations now, but this was the first time I had come across it. Sorry; there are times when I feel I have let you all down. Kunstkammer is – as you all know – a private museum). This one made the Wallace Collection seem restrained, and Tim was the typical AS speaker (i.e. perfect).

March 4 2021. A Court meeting. By zoom, of course. Gosh, what a frustrating medium it is; we are getting better at it though (only a few instances of “YOU’RE ON MUTE” this time. Thank goodness the end is nigh). The bland “A Court meeting” at the start of this entry does, of course, mean that most of the day before (and the morning of the meeting) was spent in re-reading all the relevant documents and making copious notes, then sorting everything into a vast pile of paper. What a delight to see the Court though, and to discuss and agree things with them – including agreement that the new chain will be a symphony in solid gold. Will I be able to cope when I can see the Court’s legs and feet? We shall see.

March 8 2021. Another Pocket Lunch. This should have been The Pocket Lunch, but it was demoted to being just a Pocket Lunch because, for some reason I cannot recall, we couldn’t meet in person. So, it was the same as The PL, but without the delicious 3 course meal, wines of two colours, and port (well, it was without these in my household; other AS may have higher standards). It was the usual mad and eclectic mixture of the weird, the wonderful, the mundane, and the exotic. Just like the Arts Scholars; except for the weird bit; and the mundane as well; and the mad. This bit isn’t going well is it? Try again. The Pocket Lunches are a microcosm of the Arts Scholars. Awash with erudition and passions, and all that. They’re jolly nice, and great fun, and so are the Arts Scholars.

It’s looking good for a real live event in a few months, so . . .to our next merry meeting!

John Spanner

15 March 2021




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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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