Obverse and Reverse – Flip The Coin

I was delighted to see the final struck coin for next year’s quincentenary celebrations of Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579).  The coin was designed by Xenia Mainelli (yes relation).  Much has been written, but we particularly look forward to Dr John Guy’s forthcoming biography (a pre-read was fantastic), and John’s Gresham lecture at Guildhall:

Sir Thomas Gresham (1519 – 2019)
Old Library, Guildhall
18:00 – 19:00, Thursday, 13 June

Bookings here from 15 April – https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/thomas-gresham-1519-2019

If you want my amateur take ahead of time:

Sir Thomas Gresham: Tudor, Trader, Shipper, Spy and the Ladies of Dulwich

But far easier to just have a sneak preview of the coin:

Good Money Drives Out Bad / Bad Money Drives Out Good

World Record For World Traders

London, 29 October 2018: The Worshipful Company of World Traders is delighted to announce that it has broken the Guinness World Record for the “most nationalities in a simultaneous popular music sing-along”.http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/415296-most-nationalities-in-a-simultaneous-popular-music-sing-along

On 8 October 2018, with support from Goodenough College and Voices of London, the Worshipful Company of World Traders set a new record with 245 people from 84 nationalities singing “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, and “Mama Mia!”. London Business School set a record for 72 nationalities in 2016.

The attempt was the brainchild of Master of the World Traders 2017-2018, Professor Michael Mainelli, who decided that the World Traders could do something to celebrate inclusion during times of apparent division, “Our Company motto is ‘Commerce and honest friendship with all’.  With trade wars popping up everywhere, our idea was to show global unity here in London with everyone around the world.  The World Traders are delighted to be the first Livery Company of the City of London to achieve a Guinness World Record.

Setting a Guinness World Record is a demanding task. Independent Witnesses with experience of checking passports are requisite, and so the World Traders recruited Martin Lloyd, author of “The Passport: The History Of Man’s Most Travelled Document” for the attempt, as well as a legal witness from Mishcon de Reya. We also needed six Stewards, each responsible for a zone with a maximum of 50 singers, who had to verify that all the singers participated.  Stewards and witnesses had to sign a confirmation that they were satisfied with the all aspects of the event that were under their jurisdiction.  Mary Hardy, the Choirmaster, and Norman Rose, the pianist, ran everyone through their paces twice over.

Lars B Andersen at the tensest moment.

Lars B Andersen, the Liveryman of the World Traders who coordinated the record attempt, said: “In the end, we uploaded more than 53 GB of data in 44 files to prove that our attempt was valid. After a lot of work planning this event, we were so pleased to hear that Guinness World Records approved our record on 24 October.”

Rebecca Matthews, Director of Goodenough College, commented, “Goodenough College is home to postgraduate students of over 80 different nationalities. We are incredibly proud of our strong links with the Worshipful Company of World Traders and share the same belief in (intellectual) ‘Commerce and Honest Friendship with all’.  As such we were pleased to be able to celebrate our unique diversity by taking part in this World Record attempt. I know that our many talented Members were honoured to be able to represent themselves, their home nation and Goodenough College on the evening, and it was a fitting event to demonstrate the unique culture fostered here at Goodenough.”

Divine Service Prior To The Election Of The Lord Mayor

1 October 2018 at 10:45 – This service is held at St Lawrence Jewry, the official church of the Corporation of London.  It precedes the election of the Lord Mayor and is attended by the Masters of the livery companies.

I’ve always been politely amused by the touching adaption of a well-known hymn for the City:

O Praise ye the Lord, fraternities all,
With each patron saint, with Lawrence and Paul,
Praise God in this City, in his name we strive,
And pray for our liveries, long may they survive.

O Masters of guilds,in livery adorned,
Your mysteries keep and strive to be formed
In charity, service, and care for the poor,
Bring God his due honour, and praise Him the more.

Prepare ye to serve, all Aldermen too,
In each of your tasks be faithful and true;
With eye to the Father, and ear on your ward
With all this City, O praise ye the Lord!

This year’s Lesson and Sermon were taken from Luke 16:1-9:

The Unjust Steward

1And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 

For some of us, it seemed too a propos a lesson on ‘client monies’.

“You Never Stop Trading” – Institute Of Export Awards Ceremony

Institute Of Export
Keynote
Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli
23 May 2018, Mansion House

“You Never Stop Trading”
Minister, Aldermen, Fellow Masters, Ladies, and Gentlemen.

The City of London, what better place to graduate in trade and export. The Inspector of Ancient Monuments assures me that London’s archaeological evidence proves over 100,000 years of trading. Bloomberg across the road sits above two millennia of Londinium. We convene for this graduation ceremony over a millennium old stocks market. You are at one end of Cheapside, ‘cheap’ being Anglo-Saxon for ‘market’. One New Change at the other end by St Paul’s is its modern shopping mall. Gresham’s Royal Exchange opposite is over 450 years old.

The word ‘monger’ is old Saxon-German for trader or trafficker. Think, ‘drugmonger’. This trading City is therefore full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Lightmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers. What am I as Master of the World Traders? Perhaps I should be a WorldMonger or GlobeMonger. Pssst, hey buddy, want to buy a planet?

From Adam Smith onwards, thinkers have increasingly recognised that commerce is about much more than just making money. Commerce is about exchange between people. Commerce is about social interactions where people trade ideas, opinions, or merchandise. Good commerce is a positive sum game. Trade reaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all of our societies and communities. Trade is a force for good.

This year’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Charles Bowman, promotes the Business of Trust. His research sets out five principles for trust – five good principles for new graduates. Remember the mnemonic C-I-V-I-C:
• Competence and skills – doing what you do well;
• Integrity – being honest, straightforward, and reliable;
• Value to society – recognising and meeting wider societal needs;
• Interests of others – respecting the interests of customers, employees, and investors;
• Clear communication – being transparent, responsive, and accountable.

Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”). Trade should be win-win with other people. As the UK increasingly focuses on trade, remember that no-one should ‘export to’, everyone should ‘trade with’.

So CIVIC, I repeat:
• Competence
• Integrity
• Value to society
• Interests of others
• Clear communication

What I admire about you is that by starting, and finishing, your studies with the Institute of Export you exemplify all five CIVIC principles. You have studied to increase your Competence. Your Integrity in enshrined in your learning. Your Value is inherent in your increased professionalism. You couldn’t trade ethically without taking the interests of others to heart. You have worked hard on communicating your thinking and ideas. You deserve today’s awards.

The Jesuit scholar, Timothy Radcliffe, talks about universities and further education as places where we “learn to talk to strangers.” As you trade with strangers, they become colleagues, and later colleagues become friends.

But education and trade don’t stop here. All of life is learning and trade. In fact, I’ve improved a bit of Shakespeare to get that point across. Indulge me:
All the world’s exchange,
And all the men and women merely traders;
They have their wares and their merchandises,
And one man in his time plies much commerce,
His acts being short changes. [Jacques: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, lines 139-143]

I run a technology and finance research firm that is about 90% exports, so this year, the World Traders, young and old, Journeymen your age to ancient Liverymen like me, have focused on “Technology & Trade” as our theme. We are studying how technology transforms trade through debates, workshops, and even research into blockchains, published at the House of Commons last month as “The Economic Impact Of Smart Ledgers On World Trade”. You too will continue to learn through life, or stop living. An old quip goes, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Or Seneca the Younger stated, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”

So, as graduates, should you be optimistic or pessimistic? A number of nationalities walk into a bar and are asked, “are you optimistic or pessimistic?”:
• the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
• the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Referendum”;
• the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Border”;
• the American says, “pessimistic, Trump”;
• the Italian says, “pessimistic, elections”;
• the German says, “pessimistic, Euro”;
• the Australian says, “pessimistic, North Korea”;
BUT the World Trader says, “optimistic, pessimism is for better times.”

And you have such great opportunities. The world is changing as never before, socially, technologically, economically, and politically. It may be a bit crowded now, seven billion people is over double the world I was born into, but even that will change as we are looking to demographic numbers reversing direction about 2050. You will have outstanding chances to use your learning. You will never stop learning and trading.

May I ask you, the graduates, to go forth inspired by the motto our Worshipful Company of World Traders traded with Thomas Jefferson from 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”

May I wish all of you the success you will earn.

Thank you.

It’s Not All About Winning, Unless You Win

I had a wonderful time at the City Debate last night, Tuesday, 6 March.  Here’s a photo of all of us at the start:

CSFI & CISI City Debate:

  • Antony Jenkins (10x)
  • Nikhil Rathi (London Stock Exchange)
  • Michael Mainelli (Z/Yen)
  • Ruth Wandhöfer (Citi)

You can spot Ruth on the left, with Angela Knight in the centre who chaired proceedings, and Alderman Alan Yarrow both as Chairman of CISI and as Lord Mayor Locum Tenens.  The pre-debate vote was neck-and-neck, 51% “no” (Antony and my side) and 49% “yes” (Ruth and Nikhil’s side).

From the questions it appeared a hostile audience to Antony and me.  I had that queasy feeling you don’t like when you’ve volunteered for a competition just for the fun of it, then suddenly realise you could lose in front of all your friends.  How can one’s self-esteem ever recover?

Now you can see me in full ‘must win’ mode, or as my friend George Littlejohn would have it – “Michael could be up for playing Churchill come the next biopic.”

City Debate 2018

Thus it was a genuine surprise, and relief, to find that we moved the audience significantly to our side, 73% to 27%.  Whew.

In case my position had anything to do with swaying opinion, I set out the case against, below:

“This House Believes That Fintech Will Save The City” (NOT)

Lord Mayor Locum Tenens, Your Excellencies, Fellow Aldermen, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

You heard Antony’s compelling words.  My argument balances his.  If Fintech doesn’t destroy you, then … Fintech will remain, a small comfortable parasite on the technology and trade centre that is our global City.  So what is the City, what is Fintech, what needs saving?

Yesterday, the Inspector of Ancient Monuments assured me that London’s archaeological evidence proves over 100,000 years of trading.  I ask you, many of you too also ancient monuments before me, to join together and take a long-term perspective.  Bloomberg across the road sits above two millennia of Londinium.  We convene over a millennium old stocks market.  Gresham’s Royal Exchange opposite is over 450 years old.

With the tragic exception of Edward I’s expulsion of the Jews in 1290, what distinguishes London is that, by comparison, it has treated all comers from outside the walls fairly, so long as they adhere to “meum fidem, meum pactum”.  Lombards, Huguenots, Rothschilds, Warburgs … Mainellis.

We are an SME City.  24,000 businesses provide 483,000 jobs in the square mile, with 1,200 more each year.  Yes, 250 firms provide 50% of the jobs, but they work with 23,750 deal-making SMEs.  Large and small produce 3% of UK GVA from less than 1.5% of the workforce, three quarters of the UK’s services trade surplus, some £68bn.

Urban legends mislead us.  The City was a deal centre before and after WWI, but was a feeble financial centre from 1939.  The finance legend was kept alive by Italians and Americans, Autostrade in 1963 creating Eurobond markets on neutral territory.  When Thatcher lifted exchange controls in 1979 and Big Bang broke cartels, financial services boomed.  Most of today’s behemoths were SMEs 30 years ago.  Bloomberg dates to just 1981.

You’ve heard of a Baker’s Dozen, 13?  I recently learned that a Banker’s Dozen is 11.  Just seven banks, not even 11, gets you to over 95% UK market share.  Cartels remain.  Domestic banks pursue a decades old, yet rational, strategy of hampering account switching.  If you want to be a success in retail Fintech, go to a country with over a thousand banks, Germany, or over six thousand banks, America.  Make some marketing director’s career rather than annoy a UK bank strategist.

Our retail fintech story is government lies for children, baubles with no Christmas tree:

  • M-Pesa in Kenya dates to 2007, eight years before the UK notices Fintech.
  • Retail Fintech kids unable to afford desks sit in Level 39 beside the compliance & admin battery hens of Canary Wharf, while Berlin, a quarter our size and not a global financial centre, raises more Fintech finance than we do.
  • China has 13 Fintech unicorns to our four. Even that requires forward-dating things like WorldPay, 1995, just to  fake our numbers up.

Then we put our regulator in charge of a sandbox, letting government bottlenecks choose our winners.  Any country whose regulator is in charge of innovation has deep problems.  The wider City is lawyers, accountants, maritime, insurers, not a fintech pimple.

Google Trends awards the term ‘Fintech’ around 100 points.  In January 2015 it was an insignificant six points.  Our government claims creation of a sector it didn’t even notice four years ago, putting some mobile app lipstick on the antiquated systems of some oligopolistic banks.

I came to the City in 1984 to put computer technology into Messels, then Shearson-Lehman-Amex.  We old-timers should celebrate the progress of automating wholesale finance.  We’ve been doing real Fintech long before this insulting term was mashed up.  It’s as facile as saying your heartbeat keeps you from dying.

London is a science & tech city.  From Tudor ‘New Learning’ to Gresham College, Francis Bacon, the Royal Society, Industrial Revolution, Wheatstone telegraph, or DNA (the work was done at Kings, not Cambridge), London has been at least as much about science & tech trade as it has been about finance.  Technology-Media-Telecomms is a significantly larger percentage of firms under 100 employees than finance, insurance, or professional services.  Our centuries of tech drive regtech, instech, arttech, filmtech, songtech, medtech, edtech, traveltech.

Finance moves with technology too, from cuneiform to papyri to tally sticks to spreadsheets to databases and now databases-plus, smart or distributed ledgers, blockchains.  But smart ledgers are ‘wide tech’ for identity, documentation, and agreement exchanges, not just payments.  Tech is for all sectors and the City of London is the most intense place on the planet to do tech deals.

So does the City need saving from Brexit, the wider UK, perhaps AI?  To paraphrase Streisand, “people who need to trade with people, make London the luckiest City in the world”.  As long as we focus on face-to-face, commercial, global deal-making that AI and telecoms can’t replace, deal support will thrive, from financial and professional services to hotels, culture, healthcare, or entertainment.

With or without Brexit, we need quality education and training, health, infrastructure, broadband; airports (plural); an in-visa-ble as possible access to people; a functioning housing market; a simple tax system.  If Britain is open for business, try opening a bank account.  What always needs saving is the rule of law, innovation, and open deal-making.  We are deficient, but not desperate; in danger of having our Emperor’s clothes disrobed, but with time to knit some new garments.

In conclusion, profound changes would be needed to even start to be a standalone Fintech centre.  Silicon Valley, in total, is still only half the size of London.  Fintech propaganda hides three decades of wholesale finance automation.  Our real strength is over 500 years of wider technology and open trade.  Sell Trade in Tech not Fintech.

So, do you vote for deep tech or mobile gimmicks, do you vote for City deals or for Canary Wharf turkeys, do you vote for people or machines?  Our centuries of success are built on growing SMEs in open, global trade, not some three year old government mashup.  Please vote for yourselves, the deal-makers of London, not this facile motion.

References

https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/economic-research-and-information/research-publications/Documents/research%202016/Clusters-and-connectivity-finalV2.pdf

https://www.cbinsights.com/research-unicorn-exits

A Gentleman Is A Livery Master Who Can Make A Speech, But Doesn’t

The Worshipful Company of World Traders’ Members’ Dinner fell on Burns’ Night, so I felt obliged to herd everyone in to dinner with some piping.  The Beadle did forewarn the members and guest (Bill Emmott) to enter swiftly or the Master would “play the piper”.

Courtesy of Michael Shapiro

and read on to see in what other way I failed to be a gentleman on the night…

Master’s Remarks

Wardens, My Lords, Distinguished Guest, fellow World Traders. What a delight to welcome you to this Members’ Dinner, our annual chance to get away from it all and kick our feet up informally in a Michelin Star Livery Hall in black tie.  My apologies that it being Burn’s night I felt obliged to have at least some Burns’ Night cuisine at the start. I hope we didn’t insult our esteemed chef, and our sincere thanks go to the Innholders for sharing their chef. As Jeeves was wont to say about Anatole, “God’s gift to the gastric juices”, perhaps we should poach him.

They say a gentleman is a man who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t. I wonder if a gentleman is a Livery Master who can make a speech, but doesn’t. Dream on.

May I start with thanks to Mavis Gold, Charles Lucas-Clements, and Eric Stobart for their remarks, and a special thanks to Norman Rose for some extra-special Scottish music well-played.

A quarter-way into my term, I would like to thank all of you for your immense support. We have had three large set-piece events. Our King’s College Archives tour is hard to surpass, handling DNA Photo 51 and the Wheatstone Telegraph. Our bragging rights to other liveries is certainly that, “as we wore our 3D glasses Dr Brian May of Queen leapt out from the screen to ‘Greet the Worshipful Company of World Traders’”.

Second? The World Traders Stand at the Red Cross Guildhall Fair was the second most successful stand of all 35 livery stalls, who in total raised £170,000. We must thank those who helped out on the stand driving up sales – Amanda Shackell, Corinne Larsen, Fiona Taylor, Gaye Duffy, Janet Martin, Jyoti Shah, Katy Thorpe, Martin White, Mary Hardy, Mavis Gold, Merlene Emersen, Michaela Lorenc-Suhrcke, Simon Spalding, and Vinay Gupta – and praise those who donated items so generously – Mary Hardy, Harprit Siri (Pitu) and Brian Somers. But the highest honour goes to Adèle Thorpe for pulling the entire event together.

Third, our Bank of America Merrill Lynch event exceeded all expectations with 120 members and guests, quite a few of whom are enquiring about membership.

So am I pessimistic or optimistic for the next nine months? A number of people walk into a bar and are asked this question, “optimistic or pessimistic?”:
• the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, I came down to London because distance adds enchantment to bagpipes – and I just heard your Master playing”;
• the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
• the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Border”;
• the American says, “pessimistic, Trump”;
• the Italian says, “pessimistic, elections”;
• the German says, “pessimistic, Euro”;
• the Australian says, “pessimistic, North Korea”;
BUT the World Trader says, “optimistic, pessimism is for better times.”

Looking ahead, things are moving very optimistically in just the next three months:
• on 15 February we’re all playing with helicopters in Oxfordshire with 28 Squadron at RAF Benson;
• Tacitus Day, 22 February, is now a Day not just a Lecture, with our special guest, Dr Nathan Myhrvold.  Nick Mayhew, Zoë Buckingham, Jan Dawson, and the team have six events in one day, a press breakfast, Freedom Ceremony, Lloyd’s Register lunch, King’s College lecture for 400 students and friends, Tacitus lecture itself for almost 900, and two dinners. I calculate we’ll be touching over 1,400 people that day;
• Sue Hughes is organising an event on 17 March honouring the life of our apprentice Ollie Price;
• Lars and Merlene are organising our Commonwealth warm-up debate at Goodenough Collegeon 21 March with 250 people;
• Michael Larsen is organising our Guinness World Record attempt this spring;
• We hope to launch our report into The Economic Impact of Smart Ledgers on World Trade at the House of Commons on 17 April during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

And all with the support of Gaye. Don’t tell her, but I do have a few more surprises in store as you will all see, ranging from World Traders being recognised in next month’s City Debate to an article out today featuring our views in International Finance. And our trip to Dublin is fully subscribed with nearly 50 people coming to the Fair City.

We also have a huge range of internal successes which will be shared at Common Hall, much revolving around the intense work of the Communications Committee led by Zoë Buckingham.

Jim Davis once remarked that “Bagpipes are the lost connection between noise and music.” At the moment that might describe me, the lost connection between you and our distinguished Guest.

Our guest tonight is a good friend I’ve known since the late 1980’s, Bill Emmott. He has a most wonderful and impressive career, author of a dozen well-reviewed books on Japan, Italy, Europe, and global issues. We have purchased copies of his latest book, “The Fate Of The West: The Battle To Save The World’s Most Successful Political Idea”, which are on your seats. So we’ll wait patiently here for the next two hours while you read, before we begin questions…

Perhaps most famous for being Editor of The Economist for 13 years, as a taste of his many positions he has been Chairman of the London Library and a Trustee of International Institute for Strategic Studies, and is currently Visiting Professor at Shujitsu University, a Visiting Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford, and a member of Tokyo University’s President’s Council. Bill’s Wake Up Foundation uses film, text, and data for public education and school courses about the decline of Western countries and what can be done to restore liberal democracy. Bill has kindly agreed to a question and answer session after his remarks.

My sincere thanks to all of you for such a wonderful year so far, and now over to Bill.

Wicious Wolpertinger – The Hunting Expeditions Of Several Years

In 2007 in Munich I presented the strategic work we had been doing for a client, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, to their assembled delegates from around the world.  PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification organisation, so not unnaturally, they chose to hold the event in the magnificent, yet slightly quirky, Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum München.  Though I had known about Wolpertinger for some time, this was the first time I was surrounded by so many of the vicious creatures.  Normally they are a bugger to find, let alone put down, so it was heartening, amongst all the tweed jackets and guns, to see many of the little fiends finally put behind glass.

Wolpertinger
Wolpertinger” by Rainer Zenz (1502) in the style of Albrecht Dürer – licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This inspirational event led to a lifelong passion to spend time at the end of the year helping to improve the planet, as people have discovered over the years from out-of-office messages:

2008 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m shooting Wolpertinger in the Northern Bavarian Alps in hopes of stuffing them with haggis for the traditional Frankonian Hogmonayfather Day,  but I shall be back online in January.  And if you’re out snarking north of Würzburg, you can always try texting …

2009 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m spending time with the family in the lowlands of the northern Bavarian Himalayas.  Naturally we’re hunting Wolperdinger, plucking Christmas tree gherkins and otherwise trying to nog up.  I shall be back in action in January 02010 (in the Long Now reckoning).  If it’s urgent or you’re trying to get dates to meet up, Monique Gore at the office would normally be happy to help, but she’s in New Zealand.   But if you want to, and you’re wearing protective clothing (vicious creature the Wolperdinger) and quite a good shot, you can always try texting …  And while we’re on these subjects, a fable for the festive season (sleep in) – “The Shrike And The Chipmunks“.  PS – sent from a snark-free zone.

2010 – Apologies if you’re trying to contact me as I’m in Germany fighting off vicious Wolpertingers in a desperate attempt to get the Euro, Pound, Dollar, and Yuan back on track.  Just another normal holiday for a socially-concerned family trying to save the international financial system while stranded in the high, upper, northern and slightly back(ward) Bavarian Alps.  Still, despite the casual exertions, every intention of being back online in January.  If you happen to have a Wolpertinger arquebus and a hipflask, do feel free to text … though I may be grappling with forces beyond my control at the time you do so.  “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

2011 – You will receive an intermittent service from now till January.  I’m away, as ever this time of year, ranging from hunting Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line in the remote forest Wirtschaften of the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system, to chequing out (sic) whether or not the jet d’eau in Geneva freezes.  But if you’ve had a rare sighting of Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you see straight by texting …  And for those of a thoughtful nature this Season: what would our world be like without hypothetical questions?

2012 – Yet again we undertake our pointless and delightful annual expedition, this year via Stuttgart, to the hunting grounds of the ferocious Wolpertinger up near the oxygen line among the remote wilderness Wirtschaften of the terra incognita that is the northern Bavarian Rhöner Alp system.  If you’ve had a rare shot at a Wolpertinger, do feel free to try and share some of the sauce that helped you shoot straight by texting … “What you most need to unwrap isn’t hiding under the Christmas tree.” – aphorism of the Ancient Wild Wolpertinger Hunter.

2013 – Out and about on our annual wildlife conservation expedition in the frozen wasting lands of the Northern Bayerische Alp System trying to save a beast of lore and yore near the limits of unaided oxygen high above the sea line.  No equipment as we strive to keep the watering holes open which preserve this creature’s rare habitat.  Bare hands only.  Makes the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog look like child’s play, Nessie a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as for the Yeti…  Albrecht Dürer’s 1509 snapshot reveals some of the terrifying details of this ferocious feral fella’, but of course he’s dead now.  Albrecht I mean.  Intend to return with bragging scars on 3 January.

2014 – Wearing my sustainability passions on my sleeve, yet again I’m on another Wolpertinger conservation safari this winter, due back at work in January. We intend to follow the migratory patterns of these vicious varmints from the flatlands of Salzburgerland to the Rhöntops of the Northern Bayerische Alp System.  With a ‘selfie’ handed to us by Albrecht Dürer, it should be simple to avoid skiing over the crazy critters at first, but we do intend to take the battle to them as they proliferate in the Wirtschaften further north on the edge of Thüringen.  Ahh, the tales we will tell!

2015 – And the hunt continues … Nasty brutes.  Be careful.  I always bring a medicinal flask of sprudel-waßer.  Works wonders if they bite…

In deep Bayern Mainelli’s hunt a vicious little creature,
So ye feel safe at home, with no fear of Wolpertinger.
It’s a special way to holiday, save drunken carol singers.

2016 – Well, 2016 has been anno mirabilis or anno terribilis for some, but certainly anno confusionis for all.  As the family decamps for our annual Weihnacht fortnight, I intend to take refuge in some excellent Wirtschaften and contemplate das Jahr der Verwirrung between Würzburg and Bad Kissingen.  As the brain clarifies the Schnapps, perhaps I’ll take aim at my traditional foe, the odd Wolpertinger, though of course they won’t seem that odd this year.

I’d say contact the office in my absence, etc., but they’re mostly absent too, which perhaps you should be in this post-truth, post-work, post-modern, era.  And as our world needs to stop leaking its sense of humour to prevent global warming, ask yourself, “what constitutes having an ‘advanced’ sense of humour?”, before reading the last thing that made me laugh out loud – Alt.Warmth.

Of course, in a Kneipian emergency you can always try texting while you practise your post-Brexit translation and diplomatic skills:

“Wenn wir”, sagtest Du, “die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.”

 “When we take people”, thou wouldst say, “merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.”

 « Si nous», Vous avez dit, «seulement prendre les gens comme ils sont, nous les faisons pire; si nous les traitons comme si elles étaient ce qu’ils devraient être, donc nous les amener à l’endroit où ils doivent être mis.»

“Se”, Lei ha detto, “solo prendere le persone così come sono, li facciamo peggio; se li trattiamo come se fossero quello che dovrebbero essere, quindi abbiamo portarli a se sono destinati ad essere portati.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre (Book VIII, Chapter four, 1795) from Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden, Verlag C. H. Beck München, Herausgegeben von Erich Trunz.

2017 – During the dangerous (W)interval we head, as every year, to the darker side of Europe, deep Deutschland.  As the snow swirls before the locked gates, we ponder life, food supplies, and some reruns, while our traditional foes, the Wicious Wolpertingers, snarl round the corners of the Hof.  This year we employ special hunting equipment borrowed from the Deutsches Jagd und Fischereimuseum that we hope will prevent a repeat of last year’s sousing incident.  Those of you around on 1 January are encouraged to raise your glasses in praise of our saving-the-planet-again work.  If you can’t raise your glass, we may have failed, though you should be able to watch it all again during a responsible bingeing session of Mutant Angry Crystal Zombie Dinosaurs with Penguins.  That said, you may be a bit confused as Hollywood took terrible liberties with the plot (and who says I look like Brad Pitt?).

If you’re hunting too, and dying for a dram of Jägermeister (geddit), then do text, otherwise watch the lights stay on till 4 January.  And what better quote for a repeat New Year’s quest than Hegel’s, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” Oh well, in the interest of accuracy over brevity, it was actually:

“But what experience and history teach is this, that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

“Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, daß Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.”

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte (1832).

With all best wishes to you and yours during this Winterval!

A Professor’s Lot Is Not A Happy One

And another Christmas party on 14 December?  No, our every-other-year Gresham Christmas Soirée.  It’s one of my favourite events since I first played my bagpipes there in 2005.  And in an ever-stronger-every-other-year tradition we recite Barbara Anderson’s wonderful rewrite of Gilbert & Sullivan:

The Gresham Professor’s Song

We’ve Ge-ometry, Divinity and Music ’Ty and Music
There’s also Commerce, Rhetoric and Law ’Ric and Law
And Astronomy, Psychiatry and Physic ’Try and Physic
The Monday lunch time series, and much more And much more
Our subjects we with difficulty cover ’Culty cover
We formulate some titles that sound fun. That sound fun
Ah, take one consideration with another ― With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done,
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

When you’re told to start at six and end at seven End at seven
And you want to fit in ninety Power-points, Power-points
But by five to eight you’ve got to slide eleven Slide eleven
You’re cold and tired and feel your aching joints. Aching joints
Our feelings we with difficulty smother ’Culty smother
When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done. To be done
Ah, take one consideration with another ― With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

When the au-di-ence ask questions that are silly That are silly
Worse still, they ask us something that’s quite hard, That’s quite hard
We try to answer sat-is-fac-tor-ily. Factorily
If desperate we tell them we’re time-barred. We’re time barred
Our stipends just, with difficulty, cover ’Culty cover
The overheads required to get things done. Get things done
Ah, take one consideration with another With another
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one.
Ah! When our Gresham Lecture duty’s to be done, to be done
A Professor’s lot is not a happy one, happy one.

The Professor’s Song – courtesy of Georgina Calver

Perhaps you’d like to see a live rendition?  On the left is John Carrington (Chairman) with Professor Robin Wilson leading, and to the right Professor Tim Connell, Professor Frank Cox, and lyricist (?) Barbera Anderson.  Fortunately I’m so far left here that I’m out of frame; sadly for you, you can certainly hear me!

 

Globemonger Christmas

Well, it’s certainly been a busy year, selling Lady Daphne, running Christmas markets for a few thousand of our closest friends, travelling, publishing, and even running a business.  So becoming Master of the World Traders is pushing things a bit, but what fun!

The first month in office as Master has been thrilling. My diary notes over 25 separate World Trader events or meetings.  The picture below is from our Company Christmas party at Watermen’s Hall on 7 December.

 

We had a  wonderful Carol Service on 7 December at All Hallows by the Tower. The choir, led by Mary Hardy and Norman Rose, performed a wonderful set of carols reflecting on my family’s Italian, German, and shipping background. There were some genuine tears. We hosted the event jointly with the Guild of Entrepreneurs, a deepening friendship there.  Sadly, it was the last one with our Chaplain, Rev’d Bertrand Olivier.  Bertrand has been Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower since 2005, but leaves on a great promotion to be the next Rector of Christ Church Cathedral and the Dean of Montreal (Québec, Canada).

Afterwards, we adjourned to some excellent drinks and goose at Watermen’s Hall. We even sang our own faux Globemongers’ Carol, opening with “God rest ye Merry, World Traders, lest Brexit ye Diss-May; Remember refer’nda, don’t ever go away”. Everyone left in a great mood, strangely clutching smouldering gifts of little red fishermen. Sehr gemutlich!

And that carol text in full:

The Globemongers Carol

(Sung to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”)

God rest ye Merry, World Traders, lest Brexit ye Diss-May
Remember refer’nda, don’t ever go away
To save us from the Corbyn’s pow’r, yes we have gone astray
Four tithings of EU and tax, EU and tax
Four tithings of EU and tax

But here at Watermen’s Hall, we all are castaways
Remember Christmas parties, all end in disarray
Don’t save yourself from dining’s power, you might as well a’stray
O tidings of bromo and fizz, bromo and fizz
O tidings of bromo and fizz

From year to year we reappear, and wonder all the same
How to sell incense and planets, for that’s our Company’s game
The Ever Insane Globemongers, could be our newest name
O tidings of toil and play, toil and play
O tidings of toil and play


Cashing In On Christmas

Over the past two years Elisabeth and I became a bit deranged in our support for the British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  We saw Christmas market competition everywhere.  If you look around City streets you too will see some cheeky red signs for a chain of Christmas convenience stores.  Their name?  Pret a Manger!

So what were the results?  Well, here’s a photo of HRH Princess Alexandra opening the event with the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Charles Bowman:

You can see two co-Chairmen, Elisabeth and me, in the background starting to become more relieved.  Overall, how could we not be delighted with the event?  The Monday night ‘production’ was superb.  The stalls, livery and commercial, were stunning and fun.  HRH Princess Alexandra shopped as never before – over two hours.  There were some hiccups, errant and elusive stall tablecloths on Sunday come to mind.  Credit card machines worked significantly better than before, and always a few niggles.

Total income was circa £155,000, slightly behind 2015 yet remaining slightly ahead of 2013.  The Monday night had significantly higher ticket sales than ever before, showing staunch City support. A few remarks about Christmas retailing may help place the results in context.  ‘Black Friday’ (US retailers giving sharp price reductions after Thanksgiving) has plopped itself down just before the our Christmas Market over the past decade, while ‘Cyber Monday’ (another severe discount day begun a decade ago to encourage online sales) has plopped itself down on opening day.  And 2017 is the first time since 2006 that Christmas itself falls on a Monday.  This ‘Christmas on Monday’ effect is quite important as major retailers typically find sales lag by approximate three days.  Against the background of increasingly tough competition and price wars, our biennial ‘amateur’ pop-up market amazes many professionals.

What made the whole event so special for both of us was our entire City community coming together for charity and comradeship in such a convivial and generous way.  It is impossible to imagine a more wonderful way to celebrate Christmas than doing something for the common good with dear friends.  We shall always treasure that memory.  And that welcome text in full:

Your Royal Highness, My Lord Mayor, My Lords, Your Excellencies, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Masters, Fellow Liverymen, Ladies & Gentlemen.  Welcome to the Wonderful 2017 British Red Cross Christmas Market at Guildhall.  Yet again we have our traditional festive market and innovations sucha as a German Weihnachtsmarkt and a Foodiefest.

We cannot thank so many supporters enough.  We extend our sincere thanks for the long-standing royal support, and dedicated shopping, of British Red Cross Deputy President HRH Princess Alexandra.  We thank the entire Red Cross team, represented here by Lady Lamport, and project managers Laura Deacon and Kerry Thomas who led the work programme these past 24 months.

There is a very special relationship between the British Red Cross and the City of London, starting with the City’s stalwart support of emergency appeals.  The Rt Honourable the Lord Mayor Charles Bowman and Lady Mayoress Samantha Bowman are Patron and Chairman respectively of the City of London Sector of the British Red Cross.  The late Lord Mayor, Dr Andrew Parmley, and his wife Wendy, conducted several appeals to help us raise funds for these two days. 

Over the past two years Elisabeth and I became a bit deranged in our support.  We saw Christmas market competition everywhere.  If you look around City streets you too will see some cheeky red signs for a chain of Christmas convenience stores.  Their name?  Pret a Manger.

The Corporation donates this magnificent and valued venue and our Civic Team turns up in force with our Sheriffs Tim Hailes and Neil Redcliffe.  Of course, Neil and his wife Emma were the former Chairmen and handed on this Market in wonderful shape back in 2015. Our Chief Commoner, Wendy Meade, is resplendent here tonight, yesterday in mufti along with numerous members of the Civic Team, Aldermen, Commoners, and Guildhall staff.

Our wider City community includes the Pikemen & Musketeers, The Light Cavalry, Colin Sayer of Seasoned Events, Livery Companies, Ward Clubs, the City Livery Club, Guild of Freemen, and City Guides – who have supported the Market these many years.  City stalls donate 100% of their takings to the Red Cross.

As Master World Trader this year, what distinguishes this event is that the Steering Committee and Main Committee, run a genuine market, and we thank the numerous Patrons who gave their support, their time, their goods, and their cash.

We also thank the stallholders, accountants, runners, lifters, drivers, and musicians.  A wonderful addition has been the numerous Embassies participating, while celebrities such as Loyd Grossman and Cyrus Todiwala give glamour to the Foodiefest and Aleppo Supper Club.  The BBC Antiques Roadshow Team are here in force, as is artist Jeremy Houghton.

Jean-Henri Dunant witnessed 40,000 dead or wounded at the Battle of Solferino, that led to him forming the Red Cross in 1863.  Just seven years later the British Red Cross began.  The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are, as part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters, and emergencies.  Today the British Red Cross has 32,500 volunteers and 3,500 staff disbursing a quarter of a billion pounds annually.

But none of this would be possible without support from the public and you here tonight, all of us.  Our Christmas Market helps to make a difference. May the British Red Cross flourish until we do have Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men.

So join me in wishing everyone here for these two days Merry Shopping and Happy Christmas.

Thank you.