Sunday, 16 December 2012

Master Mervyn's meanderings - 6

The onset of December brought a distinct end of term feeling. The end of November was signalled on Friday 30/11 by Lunch with the Old Bailey Judges, almost a miss as the East Coast trains were disrupted by suicide at St Neots. By dint of driving fast from Biggleswade to Letchworth I caught a train from Cambridge, which made up for lost time by rattling down a main line free of expresses from the north and I arrived at 12.50, just as Sherriff Nigel Pullman, my host began rounding everyone up for the meal. His Honour Judge Nicholas Cooke, next to me, had a daughter with a flat near the centre of Letchworth, which broke the ice for civilised conversation. Usually, guests are offered the chance to visit the Courts during the afternoon to witness Justice in action. As it was Friday, business has either been wrapped up or adjourned for the weekend, fortunate as the judge seated opposite could travel to his country house in Dorset. On Tuesday 4 December the Clerk and I attended the Marketors Company Lecture at Goldsmiths’ Hall, the most opulent of venues, to hear Professor Patrick Barwise expound on ‘Hitting the Sweep Spot: How to achieve Lasting Organic Profit Growth’, a title suggesting one of the lyrics from the ‘sixties Broadway musical ‘How to succeed in Business without even trying’. It was an exposition on ‘Druckerism’, propounded by an American marketing guru of the ‘fifties. As he spoke I reflected that brand recognition was a part of Victorian commerce – think of the Bisto Kids (still revived to help sell the gravy powder) and brilliantly successful despite (or possibly because of) limited media a century ago – press and posters and enamelled signs displayed at shops and on railway stations. The hearty supper after the lecture may not have included Bisto but it certainly cut the mustard for a cold might. 

Wednesday 5 December had a Reception for Adrian Waddingham’s Shrieval Election Campaign for June 2013, at Armourers’ Hall. I expect there will be more of this in the New Year, particularly as Common Hall approaches. I rushed on to the President’s Medals Ceremony at the RIBA, guest of Richard Brindley, who had flown to Brazil on Institute business. The Jarvis Hall was packed and all the recipients looked frighteningly young and self-confident. The exhibition was a fearsome display of what computer graphics can achieve. The Reception in the Florence Hall suffered from low levels of light, which made it difficult to recognise people. The building comes alive on these occasions, and I hope that some of this enthusiasm will be generated for my Milo Lecture ‘Lutyens in the City of London’ next February12 (calling notices are out so there’s no excuse not to sign up). What none of us knew was that the centenarian Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer had died – next day I posted a tribute on the blog and Richard, who had become the British spokesperson in Brasilia witness to the scene of mass grief for the man who had created the architectural image for their new capital city (cross reference to the relevant page of the blog). To end the week on Friday 7 December the ‘At Home’ at Southwark Deanery brought welcome calm and radiated the impression of a friendly family party. On the Embankment, a few steps from The Globe, the Deanery house is a rare Georgian survival, rescued from use as a paint factory, and faces what the Dean calls the best view in London. Looking out of the first floor windows across a windswept River Thames towards the floodlit south elevation and dome of St Paul’s Cathedral commanding the skyline, few would argue with him. 

A few days to catch up, do some Christmas shopping, and actually start preparing my Milo Lecture, and then one of the Landmarks of the Company year, the Annual Carol Service at St Lawrence Jewry, on Friday 14 December. I had chosen the music – organ voluntaries and carols for choir and congregation in liaison with Catherine Ennis (organist and choir master, who was unfortunately booked elsewhere on the night), Paul Weston had arranged the readings and our Chaplain, Canon David Parrott had signed the Order of Service off. A few ex-cathedra scares notwithstanding – notably the grinding halt to train services on the East Coast following the emergency evacuation of the King’s Cross signal box, which delayed arrival of Upper Warden Jaki Howes- all went ahead without a hitch. The music fitted the mood perfectly, opening with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ in its processional format, stimulating as with John Joubert’s proclamatory ‘Torches!’ to the tender melancholy of ‘The Coventry Carol’; traditional congregation sing-outs including ‘The Holly and the Ivy, ‘The First Noel’ culminating in ‘Hark the herald angels sing!’ The organ voluntaries by Franck (Pastorale) and Bach (‘Wachet auf’) set the scene, while we processed out to Karg-Elert’s splendid ‘Marche Triomphale’). All the readings went well. The buffet afterwards was most convivial, bringing a most memorable event to an appropriate end. 

Finally, (if you have been), thankyou for reading this. There’s lots, lots more to come. Meantime, Merry Christmas ans a Happy New Year from The Master.

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