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Annual Charities Supper 30 Jan:  Cutlers' Hall – Save the Date
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Rituals from the Dawn of Time...

The change of dynasty and the crowning of new Emperors at Grocers Hall in the City....

Taken aback by the opulence of the building and the splendour of its contents, although this was slightly spoiled by the issue of a Waitrose carrier bag at the entrance and the cloakroom ladies offering to do a three coats for a pound deal on the production of a loyalty card.

We ebb and flow around the foyer human flotsam and jetsam, going through the time honoured ritual of knowing the face but forgetting the name. Casting furtive glances at the name tags in the hope of being able to throw the odd David or Sheila into the conversation and trying not to say ‘pleased to meet you’ to someone you met last year, then mortified that they made so little impact.

These Company rituals occupy that no man’s land between lunch and dinner when the rumbles of the digestion systems of the un-nourished start to grow louder than the burble of inconsequentialities. The Beadle who sounds as if he should be a small dog but is actually a larger than life figure who must double up as a bouncer between Company gigs summons us to a side room lined with portraits of portentous looking paintings of the long dead in historical costume. They vary between threatening and self important. We are given an additional 50 loyalty points on our Company cards as we enter.

Those in first then try to stand at the back. These events are much like attending a Comedy Club show where no one wants to be at the front in case they attract unwelcome attention from the comedians who are about to perform. The first footers are pushed to the fore.

Enter Lord Sankey preceded by the bouncer with a very impressive club in his hands. He strikes a couple of the audience with it as a reminder of its importance and the offence that the illustrious emperor will take if any of the unwashed should venture too close. We draw back with a sharp intake of breath and the ceremonial continues. The slaughter of the firstborn has been unfashionable in recent centuries so two goats and a cockerel have to suffice before the carefully choreographed ritual that is the change of dynasty.

This involves a considerable amount of cross dressing (when it is a man who takes the royal seal) the exchange of clothing and jewellery and some curtseying. Patrick Chapman has followed the traditional route adopted by royal families over the centuries to aspire to the throne involving the usual smattering of incest and selective poisoning of competitors. He looks rather fetching in the red dress but there is just the trace of a smudge from his mascara as he feels the emotion of the moment the crown passes into his hands. Traditionally the throne remains in the same hands for a full year. The line of succession is to become a warden first. Should you prove adept at interpreting the parking rules and meet the target quota of parking tickets during your term you rise slowly to be next in line. Although this is the usual process Noorzaman Rashid, one of the parking officials appointed this time lays a large sabre prominently on the table before him causing a ripple of anticipation from the crowd as we have yet to witness an et tu Brute moment at an enthronement. To Patrick’s obvious relief this is purely decorative.

At the end of the exchange of vows by the incoming and outgoing emperor they demonstrate the giddy heights of their power by openly introducing their mistresses to the baying mob. Not only do they have no shame in doing so but they award them necklaces in recognition of their services. The mistresses break up pieces of cake and distribute them to those who have already fainted for lack of sustenance.

The succession feast is announced but we first queue to swear fealty to the new overlord. In their anxiety to be next in line for the parking ticket jobs the first few in line spend so much time practising obsequity that the crowd begins to become restless and begins to press forward in an unseemly scrum.

To dinner at last and to a mighty feast indeed. The head table as befits the occasion is served first by beautiful young people with winning smiles. The champagne bubbles in the flutes and the quails eggs and sparrow tongues let off a delicate fragrance into the candlelit air. The Grocers prove to be marvellous hosts. The food is in my experience by far the best at a Company event and the wine a superb complement to the perfectly cooked courses. They are all in excess of 5,000 calories, an ideal diet for the emaciated members gathered at the tables. Fired up by the free flowing wine and a mild bout of group hysteria the serried ranks of members get down to conversation. I take the usual commission for promising not to mention any names but the repartee on our part of the table sparkles. From bondage to dating sites to Ukip and back and forth across continents and disciplines there is no shortage of anecdotes and opinions, many of the participants contradicting themselves. Ahh the joy of management consultancy.

The speeches begin. To the joy of the drunken masses waiting to stagger home these are amazingly succinct and generally well balanced, although Patrick does throw in a few lines about the coming of the second empire of the sun and his rule lasting a thousand years which does seem a little at odds with the rules.  The guest speaker is among other things an academic. Unusually for so many in this field he not only manages to be obviously clever but not to make it seem so and has the potentially unruly gathering mesmerised as he skis down the piste of the raconteur with the skills of an oral athlete. The evening ends with the arrival of the gold chariot drawn by unicorns to take our new leader home to his bath of asses milk and we totter out into the city wind to take our chances with the footpads and drunks....

Liveryman Jeff Cant