Christmas Lunch 16 Dec:  Ironmongers' Hall
Charities Supper 15 Jan 2020:  Skinners' Hall
Click here for our rolling events programme

To the pumps...

The annual procession of the halt, the lame and those sought by the forces of law seeking smugglers of rum and perfume...

And so to the unlawful wilderness that is the world outside the walls of the City of London for the annual assembly of the halt, the lame and those sought by the forces of law seeking smugglers of rum and perfume. This year the task of the pressgang proved particularly hard. It was rumoured that a strange body known as  the Management Consultants could prove a source for the crew. These outlaws from decent society were hard to track down but there had been occasional sightings within the boundaries of the old town of Londinium. They practice their trade in the shadows, often under cover of night, and pride themselves on their ability to blend chameleon like with their landscape and to seduce prey with a siren song, imitating the mating cry of their own species and often persuading them to embrace their fate as if they had wished it all along. Despite an active interest in the sea and piracy within the Company they proved hard to trap. The first attempt, laying out tempting bait and promising spoils, resulted in 136 business plans and suggestions about paying the spoils in advance, but few volunteers. This could have been because signing up for the good ship Fleur de Lys required an initial donation of a small bag of groats to fund the expedition or maybe that the sailing required time off from their usual pursuit of untold riches. 

The search was long and hard but eventually with the aid of many, but particularly Richard ‘Mugger’ Stewart who proved especially adept with the blackjack, we assembled the magnificent seven. It was a major disappointment that our one heroic woman crew member from earlier years Mary Collis had sustained a serious injury in a bar brawl and was unable to attend. As a result we lacked the discipline that a woman on the crew brings. As skipper Patrick ‘Mad Dog’ McHugh made a preliminary allocation of the on board tasks. These fell as follows:

Jeff Cant – Parrot keeper and Wooden Leg minder

Patrick McHugh – Skipper and administrator of the lash

Navindra T - Crows Nest and Navigation

Edward Sankey –Rum Keeper/CEO/Business Planning

Chris Lait – Pressgang roustabout/Winches/Sail trim/Keelhauling

Geoff Llewellyn – Onboard disabilities supervisor/First Aid/Repartee manager

Richard Stewart - Winches/spinnaker/foredeck/Leader of boarding parties

To the sea. As usual with these trips we gathered at an Inn on the day before the battle to mutter darkly about tides and winds and as the ale flowed to allow the scabrous crew to regale the company with tales of daring and mastery of the elements. The portents were not good for the expedition. The winds howled through the rigging and the quay was littered with the bodies of gulls struck down by the constant shafts of lightening crackling across the port. We met with the crew of the HMS Warrior moored nearby and were invited to join them for an evening of drinking and raucous laughter, an easy offer to accept as by this time the crew were mildly hysterical. At this point Mad Dog McHugh insisted we were all scrubbed down for fear of spreading the pestilence we carried to the Warrior. He then adjourned to his luxurious quarters for this to be attended to by a troupe of willing handmaidens armed with the softest sponges and asses milk to ensure his delicate skin remained soft and well oiled. The rest of us were taken to the public baths and hosed with icy water before a swift scrub down with rough straw. Most of the crew complained bitterly although Richard seemed to get some pleasure from the suffering. After his performance in the pressgang this was little surprise.

At the Skippers insistence we took to the sea for a trial run of the Fleur de Lys. The winds were so strong that only a tiny expanse of sail could be hoisted. The conditions did not deter Navindra however. He spent much of the time afloat displaying his magnificent one pack on the foredeck in a position best described as ‘reclining man in shades’. Chris ‘Flotilla’ Lait was fresh from many days locked in a dark room working on adding glamour to his website and, charged up with adrenaline was a constant presence wherever there was reefing, winching or furling. Eventually we got him down from the top of the mast with a tranquilising dart and had to confine him to the brig for his own safety.

The evening below decks on the Warrior was accompanied by the Navy’s main source for taking the Queens shilling, the Sea Cadets. They danced and sang merrily and regaled the assembly with tales of their own feats on the sea. All this seemed very proper until later in the evening when we were mostly in our cups and they came round in groups and insisted on a levy to ensure our safe passage home, in return for which we received strips of numbered paper.

We adjourned to the Inn which bustled with activity. There were many comely wenches from the evening and the younger and livelier of the crew entertained them with singing, dancing and repartee. Ed Sankey was out on licence for poor behaviour and an unduly mathematical approach over a very long marriage and one of the terms was that his wife accompanied him to all public events to ensure an appropriate standard of behaviour. Fortunately she could wassail with the best and hold her own with much wine and merriment. And so to bed.

The dawn. To a breakfast of biscuit and weevil at a hovel near the jetty. Patrick joins us replete with a six course breakfast and announces that the battle is in doubt due to force seven gales and heaving seas. He describes this so vividly that some of the crew, still tired and overwrought from the previous evenings celebrations, rush to the quayside to lay down and inspect the seas more closely. We hold their ankles until they feel better. We think it is all over as the battle is called off but Patrick has other ideas and insists on a two hour run towards the Isle of Wight crossing a submerged reef. An exhausted albatross falls to the deck and we snack on it with a few crisps. 

Geoff Llewellyn keeps our spirits up with tales of sea disasters. He is distracted as having acquired a mighty estate in the South he is planning the recruitment of sufficient serfs to maintain his holdings. 

And so to shore, disappointed at the missed chance to write the names of the crew in the annals of the history of epic encounters but a memorable event nonetheless.

Jeff Cant, Liveryman