Keenly-anticipated and now, deservedly, semi-legendary, the 3rd Appreciation Supper was held in the Members’ Dining Room of Guildhall on the evening of Thursday 19th April.
From humble beginnings, the Appreciation Supper has become one of the set-pieces of the Guild’s year, as Freemen Entrepreneurs both new and, er, not so new, gather to rehearse the slightly sillier aspects of City dining, and to learn more about these ancient customs.
For a second time, the Senior Warden, Alderman Peter Hewitt, and his wife, Fidelma, were front and centre to give the Guild the benefit of their collective experience of the City of London’s quirky dress-codes and etiquette. The Senior Warden and Mrs Hewitt grappled deftly with the thorny business of conversational segues and exit strategies, and Freemen and their guests were given plenty of opportunities to try them out over brimming glasses of fizz.
The receiving line brought fresh challenges, as the guests, marshalled effectively by the Beadle, sought to maintain both momentum and dignity on their way into dinner. The diners were spared the electronic malfunctions of the 2017 event as the pianist struck up a confident march to accompany the procession of the Guild’s Officers – unimpeded by the keyboard’s oddly numerous Latin American percussion settings. Grace was said, and, with palpable relief, the diners took their seats for a spritely and delicious supper.
More rules punctuated supper as Freemen were advised strictly on the finer points of formal dress, advanced conversational niceties, and (with no little delicacy) how one really ought to make oneself comfortable before one sits down… This last nugget of information clearly came as a surprise to several of those present, and one or two could be seen nervously glancing at the door until after the Loyal Toast.
The Worshipful Company of Fletchers’ historic collection of plate – polished to astonishingly beauty, and filled with iced rosewater and rose petals – was brought to the table, and heralded an impromptu vignette by Mr Nicholas Westgarth on the subject of spice trading and the value and importance of rose extract. His audience nodded appreciatively at the sight of a tiny vial of true rose oil, and the refreshing exercise of the sharing of rosewater bowls began under the careful supervision of the staff.
The first rendition of the sung grace was (as has become traditional) given a decisive thumbs-down by the pianist, clearly relishing his role as the evening’s villain. It bore repetition, and, with decent support from the Clerk and a couple of carefully-positioned and note-perfect guests, the second attempt was considerably easier on the ear!
Loving Cups are, by now, familiar to most Freemen, and, unfazed by the enormity of the Fletchers’ pineapple finials, there was enough expertise in the room to allow the complexities of standing, sitting, wiping, bowing and tapping to proceed at a fairly brisk pace.
Toasting and singing followed, all accompanied by valuable instructions from Alderman and Mrs Hewitt, who displayed redoubtable enthusiasm throughout, before the Senior Warden rose to deliver a brief and informative speech. The Master then replied, taking as his theme the many unsung and astonishing facets of the modern City of London. He thanked the Master Fletcher for the very generous use of the silver, and welcomed representatives of the Guild of Nurses and the Guild of HR Professionals who were present. He concluded by thanking Alderman and Mrs Hewitt for another hugely entertaining and illuminating evening, and encouraging all Freemen to put what they had learned into practice at the Summer Banquet on 5th June.
The Appreciation Supper 2019 is on Thursday 11th April