I had a welcome break from the gloom and the cuts yesterday to attend an amazing event.
It was Barry Winfield's leaving lunch from Broadgate Estates, held at the Grocers Hall in the City. And a most elegant affair it was too.
Peter Wynne Rees and Peter Bennett from the City were there, of course, as was Archie Galloway (aka "the Scottish Connection") and other grandees, Sir Michael Oliver, Fergus Low and Paul Lewis.
The "naughty corner" (me and Tony Burchett in the main) were running a book as to which of the Knights of the Realm (Stuart Lipton or John Ritblat) would manage to turn up latest but in fact the two "Sirs" turned up almost simultaneously on time leaving Nick Bates, now at Land Sec of course, to pick up the wooden spoon for tardiness.
(Tony Burchett is very naughty indeed: at one point, when I was carping at Peter Rogers for being so very slim at ...uh... a certain age, Tony expostulated "Peter! You are as fit as a butcher's dog!". Well, the Ever-Urbane Pierre looked rather shocked by this. Although not displeased at all.)
A very sumptuous and hugely enjoyable lunch was enjoyed by all, notwithstanding the slightly disorientating effect of Barry and his team changing tables between courses (Barry himself was whirling around like a Dervish naturally).
And then the speeches: Barry made a characteristically long opening address but then, in a moment of highly endearing self awareness, gave over the floor to a wonderful light opera singer, Bob, who then paid tribute to all of those who had been part of Barry's career in a purpose-written (by Barry of course) 33 verse ditty and we all sang-along to the chorus. This was, mercifully, rather shorter than it sounds. In fact it was terrific fun.
Then Stuart Lipton made a most humorous address refuting parts of Barry's speech, in particular his version of events the day he came for interview at Stanhope. And John Ritblat paid an affectionate tribute to "Barry Winfield of Broadgate Estates... actually feels more like more like Barry Estates".
Rupert Murray had made a film about Barry in which all of us (including Stuart Lipton and John Ritblat, and Roger Kallman and Mick Mannion) talked about our good friend, and this was cut with fantastic footage of army scenes from Ealing comedy and Carry On films (in reference to Barry's Army background; he'd risen to the rank of Major, before forging this second sparkly career).
Worked ever so, ever so, well. And the Broadgate Estates team had commissioned an original from Bruce MacLean and Bruce himself was there to present it, in the guise of "Mystery Guest", so as not to spoil the surprise.
(What a thrill to meet the great man, I am a great admirer of the no-nonsense Scottish artist: I used to have a Bruce MacLean on my wall when I worked at Stanhope and, of course, Bruce is the creator of the extraordinary public art installation, "Eye-I", outside 199 Bishopsgate, still as fresh as a daisy, 22 years on).
Fresh as a daisy would not have been the description of me as I left the assembled throng (at about 7pm it was) although Barry was still hugely in the pink and bellowing orders from one side of the bar to the other. I think it is fair to say that he loved every minute, every scrap, of it. And why wouldn't you?
It was a fitting tribute to a great career in setting a new bar for standards in estates management. Oh to aspire to such a leaving party!
Superb urban space at Broadgate and on nearly thirty other huge projects: Barry's great contribution to the regeneration agenda. Done with love and pride.