Flaming June – Master’s Blog
Flaming June has lived up to its reputation. Coming in with a week of really rainy cold weather as it often does (remember D-Day) it then turns to the blistering hot conditions which we had through much of the month. There is, though, nothing so nice as a cup of tea in polite company even on the hottest day, and this year it was in the grounds of Buckingham Palace when many Liveries were invited to a garden party, that it was the most enjoyable. The Queen looked cool and happy as ever and the Duke of Edinburgh decided to join us, to the immense pleasure of the visitors. He obviously loves being there. It was something of a Royal month as the Warrant Holders held their annual exhibition of the work of the QEST craft scholars at a special lunch at the Hilton. Thank goodness they give the support they do, as there is almost no public money for the training of these highly talented people – the creative strength of the country would be much diminished without their flair and energy – it was a delight to meet them.
The same thoughts came to me when visiting the Copper Rivet Distillery in the Chatham Historic Dockyard. Every Master takes the opportunity to exercise their historic right to inspect distilleries within 31 miles of the City and this one just made it! Beautifully and inventively constructed in a former pump house, the stills are producing some great gin and even whisky now. The three Russell Liverymen and distiller Abi passed the test with flying colours! They work right alongside the Medway at the point where the Dutch Navy was finally stopped in their attempted invasion of 1667; not our own Navy’s finest hour, depleted after the continuous wars of the 1600s, it lost much of the fleet including the flagship, the Royal Charles, but it was the spur to get building again. Scroll forward 350 years and you hope we still understand the need for strong defences.
The Master’s role is nothing if not varied; skillfully avoiding humiliation at the Distillers annual golf competition by offering to do the photography, I found myself a day later at Sandown Park squeezing into my overalls in 34 degrees of heat to take part in the Lord Mayor’s Charity go-kart Grand Prix. I am not sure that I will escape bringing out my old golf clubs for another year, but next year I think I would rather let the younger and lighter liverymen take the wheel for this fun but taxing afternoon. Low weight and good technique are definitely at a premium. I have never seen so many young slim freemen and liverymen arriving in their Astons! James Higgins and I, with support from a Horner and an International Banker certainly did not disgrace ourselves and we shall be back next year – with the benefit of experience! Next week it is Common Hall and the election of the Sheriffs, and then a flight to Holland for this year’s Livery Distillery visit to the famous center of Jenever in Schiedam. Let us hope that June holds its nerve as we venture on to the canal boat…