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May – July 2020: The First 8 Weeks

The last time I did anything like this was a lifetime ago, when I committed my teenage angst to the pages of a Collins diary; whatever the traumas of Covid19, they are as nothing compared to those of a lovesick teen. Any days without entries in this (and there are many) may be presumed to have “weltschmerz, and worrying about Arts Scholars’ stuff” as the text.


May 14 2020. Installation Day! Yay! Rather different to the Installation originally planned, but a great bonus that the magic of Zoom actually worked. For most of us involved, this was our first experience of a strange new world of new style videoconferencing, and compared to my experiences of early corporate videoconferencing (“could you all move in together please? We can only see half of you”) it was a triumph. I actually wore a suit, and a tie (Arts Scholars, of course), and shoes – no pyjama bottoms and bare feet for me. I was installed (magic moment), and installed the Wardens and three new Assistants. And that was it. A combination of euphoria and anti-climax.


Euphoria then reigned, as Mary and I celebrated with some champagne; and then some more. I am normally an enthusiastic speaker on such occasions, but I felt that with an audience of one (who has heard all my so-called witticisms a number of times before) perhaps I should just confine myself to a toast. So we toasted The Arts Scholars. Hooray!


May 15. I did not go to the 100+ Livery Companies lunch at IT Hall. Then again, nor did anyone else. But we did have a Sainsbury’s delivery.


May 18. Mary did not go to Tea at the Drapers’.


May 27. The stuff that didn’t happen today was a lot more exciting than the stuff that didn’t happen on other days. Today, we did not go to HM’s Garden Party at Buck House. That was a bit of a shame, as we are rather partial to iced coffee and little sandwiches and little gateaux, but the Sovereign cancelled it for some reason. However, she said we would be invited again next year; which will be nice. I know my morning coat will be in style next year, but will have to convince Mrs S that her planned outfit will still be oojah-cum-spiff, and that we will not have to trawl the boutiques of Bond Street again.


June 3. We should have been wandering round the Weald and Downland Museum today, with a bunch of cheery Arts Scholars. It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this, that we didn’t. But with a bit of luck we will re-schedule this after the plague is over. We all collect something, but this place takes it to another level; they collect buildings, and they do have a lot of them. And a water mill. Luckily, they do have quite a big garden.


June 5.Today, we did not go to Ironbridge to meet all the other Masters. Well, it’s a long way .


June 9. An actual event! Be still my beating heart. Well, I say “event” – it was a zoomy thing, the Chartered Architects’ lecture on “How Covid-19 will impact behavioural change within the commercial property market”. The title did not inspire great joy, but it was really rather good; he certainly knew his stuff, and made me realise there’s a lot more to getting back to work than you would ever believe. Like most of these lecture things, I really only went for the company, and the booze, so I had a chat with Mrs S afterwards over an effervescent glass.


June 16. Another event! The formation of the 2019/20 Past Masters’ Association. A Zoomy formation meeting, of course. But I was actually in the same room as around 100 other Masters, so that’s a first. We are to be called The Zoomers for some reason, presumably because we are all so dynamic. The meeting was at 4, and ended before 5, so my inbuilt sense of protocol meant that I could not have a drink afterwards [You can start at lunchtime, and carry on all day, or you can start in the evening and carry on till you fall over, but you can’t start at any other time. Why? You just can’t. You might, but I can’t.]


June 19. Oh no. Another event. This is getting crazy. No-one told me of the relentless social pressure. Here we go then, it’s a great subject – “Stonehenge Solstice AD 2020” – and a lecturer who really knows her stuff (Heather Sebire, The Curator of Stonehenge). What did I learn? A load of fascinating stuff that I didn’t know before, that’s what (and boy, have I read books on the subject). She also confirmed what every expert on the subject says – no-one really knows what Stonehenge was for. It’s the ultimate Antiques Roadshow mystery object. Anyway, it was great, and I enjoyed it, and I wish it had been a real lecture in a real place (not that the Spanner spare bedroom study isn’t lovely, but it isn’t Drapers’ Hall). This one started at 1, so I was allowed to have a drink during it. And to continue afterwards. I’m not an alcoholic, but I do like an excuse to have a drink. Probably the words of an alcoholic.


June 24. Armed Forces flag raising day at Guildhall. It was a zoomy thing again, of course. But it was nice to be there. With the Lord Mayor, and the Chief Commoner, and the GOC London District, and a few other Top People. It was jolly windy (good for flags; not good for microphones), and I sang The Farmer’s Boy at the end, being in military mode. I was also in smart casual, but luckily no-one knew that.


July 1. Arts Scholars’ Charter Day. The very first anniversary of the Charter, and what would have been a beezer day out at the Trustees’ awards lunch at Founders’ Hall. Ah well, we’re all getting used to stuff not happening now, so I hope that all Arts Scholars raised a glass to the Company on that day. I know we did. More than one if you must know.


July 2. Had a zoom with the Wardens and Deputy Master to discuss how to engage with the Company during a time when you can’t have social events. We came up with a sort of a plan, which will be discussed by the keen brains of the Court in a couple of weeks, but the real answer is for the plague to end now. Enough of this gloom; we all know what the situation is, so going on about it is no help. The Arts Scholars will do what they can, because the members are lovely and deserve the chance of some interaction with each other.


July 7 8 and 9. Suddenly, it’s Zoom Mania. Not only 5 Arts Scholars committees (impeccably chaired, attended by intelligent and erudite members, with keen and alert minds, which makes attending them a joy. I didn’t get where I am today by not learning how to schmooze), but I also had a Glovers’ Court meeting, a coffee afternoon with the Lord Mayor and some other Masters (Coronavirus, and diversity, if you must know), another Glovery meeting, and the Royal School of Needlework Degree Awards, which was the final one. It started at 6.30, and as you now know my rules, drinking was permissible. Hooray!


Here ends the journal of the first 8 weeks. There may well be more in due time. More upbeat, I hope. Cheery best wishes to all Arts Scholars! I do hope we meet soon. Very soon!


John Spanner

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