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Robbed in London

‘Unaccompanied midnight walking tour of Tottenham for the frail over 60’s (see-through carrier bag for wallet and ipad provided)’

Another episode of the newsletter drops from the e mail sky launched from the Consalvi editorial drone on the unsuspecting company below. Full of more news and views, some earnest, some worthy some earnestly worthy but all adding more to the average management consultant's incessant desire for knowledge and enlightenment.

A couple of weeks ago I received a stand out e mail amongst the usual rain of advertising, jokes and brain dumps that come our way 24 hours a day now. ‘Come to London to be robbed’ it said. Delighted to receive this invitation from Boris’s tourism minister I immediately launched an internet search. Two tours had already piqued my imagination, the ‘Unaccompanied midnight walking tour of Tottenham for the frail over 60’s (see-through carrier bag for wallet and ipad provided)’ and the ‘Free advice session from a pensions advisor based in Swaziland’. The pensions advice was particularly attractive as using a magnifying glass on the 47 page footnotes showed that the pension advisors needy extended family would be guaranteed never to see hard times as a large chunk of the fund would be paid to them every year even if all the investments bombed! Oh these finance wizards how magical are their spells.

But wait, read in haste repent at leisure, the e mail actually read ‘Come and be robed in London’!  Why had this not been highjacked by the spam reader as yet another teaser to join a transvestite group. Hold on, signed by our esteemed and shortly to be missed Clerk Leslie T Johnson. All of this began to make some sense as I then recalled Elizabeth quietly encouraging those of us who had been through the Freemans’s process (giving us access to an extensive range of goods by mail order) to become livery men. Always taking instructions from Elizabeth very seriously I set out some months ago to oblige her by drinking  twice my body weight in beer every night to induce the necessary livery condition.

Another expose of my lack of understanding, apparently this is ‘Liveryman’ and the next step in the Company food chain towards the Golden Throne of Enlightenment (or Masters Chair).

So to the annual church service, the annual meeting and the robing. The Innholders Hall near Cannon Street Station on a dismal Thursday September the 19th. Dusk had arrived early and the Innholders had followed the traditions of the city Companies by identifying their front door with a brass plate 4cm long and 2 wide. Finally to the business. Arriving as the annual meeting finished we shortly  left for the 100m walk to the Church (St Stephen Walbrook). We were lead by the senior members of the Company variously dressed in vaguely Aztec looking robes much to the intrigue of the puzzled looking tourists cluttering the pavements. The Church was a complete contradiction, a centuries old face concealing a 21st century circular marble altar trimmed with an Art Deco carpet and tasteful light oak pews, fabulously atmospheric. The pastor promised us decades in the fires of hell in return for our misdeeds (although as management consultants maybe that is just deserts) and we dutifully shuffled our feet and looked suitably humble. He then launched into a genuinely perceptive and modern sermon with some particularly clear insights which lifted our spirits. The organist was predictably manic. I wonder whether church organists are locked away for their own safety and only let out to completely confuse congregations by playing randomly out of tune and with a continually varying tempo. Our bullfrogs chorus chased the hymns doggedly. I had the pleasure of standing next to our Master in waiting who sings in a particularly seductive contralto.

Back to the Innholders and on to the admissions. This time the new livery men due to be anointed besides the author were Paul Lampey and Steve Owen. We waited in the corridor while the new members were initiated. Once they had emerged sobbing from the ordeal we were ushered in. The Beadle (not a low slung dog used in hunting but an official of the Court) let us know that we wouldn’t actually be given a robe so we needn’t appear in our boxers and calmly coached us through the ceremony. In language and ritual it was very much a handing down of centuries of words and commitments and in many ways a reminder of the generations of feet that have preceded us.

And so to the post match wine and tiny but exciting things to eat. I find the company of those in our business of giving advice to make things better can be relied upon to produce at least 14 different views and options from every two people gathered together. The newer members were particularly innovative in their observations. It felt to me that following the lead of our present Master the Company is on the verge of a Consultants' Spring, drawing the past along into a future which better matches the worldwide structural upheaval we our now surrounded by.