December: A month of lights, snow, coziness, and feasts…

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…is an apt description of these last four weeks. The turning on of the St Paul’s Christmas tree lights, the worst snow in The City since 1991…and the sheer number of ‘Feasts’ all leading, as they do, to the Winter Solstice on the 21st of December. The annual period of darkness and agricultural inactivity with its 14 multi-religious events.

The month's diary contained three amazing City Banquets, 15 Dinners, 11 lunches, the High Commissioner’s Reception at Buckingham Palace, and the splendid Brigantes’ Winter Gathering in Bradford. I also attended three major carol services, including the brilliant Communications Industry Carol Service at St Brides; held a Workshop on SMEs, and held briefings for new Livery Clerks and Members of Common Council on the role of the Sheriffs and of The Old Bailey.

But these numbers and activities belie a stronger truth. It has been a period, at least for me, of real personal reflection.

There was that peculiar moment, as I stood on Horse Guard’s Parade with the King, senior members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and the Heads of the Armed Forces, together with the full panoply of the Household Cavalry all arrayed to officially greet the President of South Africa when I, a humble Yorkshire lad, reflected on social mobility, and how education and hard work pays off, as it has for millions of other ordinary folk, for countless immigrants, and hopefully will continue to do so for millions more.

Several times during the State Banquet at Guildhall for President Ramaphosa, at the Commonwealth High Commissioners Banquet, and at the traditional Lord Mayor’s Banquet – as the Lord Mayor outlined The City’s plans for growth; the Prime Minister spoke of Ukraine, of China, and of the need for fiduciary responsibility; and the Archbishop of Canterbury challenged our moral stance – I reflected on the extraordinary ‘soft power’ of The City of London’s brand. I watched in awe as this non-party political brand, build up over a thousand years, was deftly leveraged in support of both The City and our nation’s prosperity.

There were then the fascinating conversations with several of the High Commissioners at the Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace. Each spoke admiringly of the recent and the extraordinarily peaceful change of power from one Monarch to the next and of the peaceful change of Prime Ministers and Government Ministers. There were no revolutions, no street demonstrations, and no political violence.  In stark contrast, the new Ambassador for Sudan spoke movingly of the recent changes in his own country and the appalling civilian casualties incurred over recent years. At our peril we forget the positive impact of such peaceful continuity on the trust other countries place in us.

Then, whilst attending the Lord Mayor’s 800 Anniversary Awards and meeting the astonishing young people who benefit from these travel scholarships; of presenting the awards at the new Catalyst Diversity Project launch; and recognising the Old Bailey Witness Service Volunteers - where several people received their 10, 15 and 20 year certificates at their delayed Long Service Awards - caused me similarly to reflect on how fortunate we are in this country to benefit from the gift by volunteers of their time to help others. Nothing like it exists elsewhere.

So I certainly hope that in the upcoming days, despite the current short-term economic exigencies we all face, we too all find the time to reflect on our blessings.

As Vivian Swift’s above quote continues, December is “… the time to make amends and tie up loose ends; finish what you started and make your wishes come true.”

Merry Christmas all!