The Palace of Westminster

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I finally get to say this again after a long wait: The D&O Diary was on assignment in London last week. With two COVID vaccinations under my belt and a booster shot to boot, I just decided it was finally time to start traveling again. It was great being back in London and re-acquainting myself with one of my favorite cities. Pandemic precautions made some parts of the trip awkward, but in most other ways it felt almost normal to be traveling again.


The primary purpose of my trip was to participate in a conference organized by The Geneva Association and held at Lloyd’s entitled “Evolving Liability Conference 2021: Long-Time Liability Implications of Pandemics.” I was a speaker on a panel entitled “Implications for Insurers from Shifts in Liability Standards/Duties of Care Following the COVID-19 Episode.” The conference was a hybrid event, with some audience members and speakers attending live, and other audience members and speakers attending virtually. It was really a pleasure to be at a live industry event again (even if only partially so), the first I have attended since February 2020. It was also great to be at Lloyd’s again. The event was interesting, thought-provoking, and well-run. I would like to thank The Geneva Association, and in particular GA’s Darren Pain, for inviting me to be a part of this excellent event.


Here’s a picture of our panel, following the session. From left to right, Darren Pain of The Geneva Association (moderator); Neal Beresford, Clyde & Co; John Pilkington, Ascot Syndicate; me; and Andrew Hornsblow, Dale Underwriting Partners


It was a particularly special part of my visit to Lloyd’s in connection with the conference to be invited to dinner in the famous Adam Room, an enduring vestige of venerable Lloyd’s traditions in the present-day ultra-modern building.


The dome of St. Paul’s viewed from the 11th Floor of the Lloyd’s Building


In addition to the conference and meetings, I did also have the opportunity to try to refamiliarize myself with London. The weather originally predicted was unpromising, with rain forecast every day. Fortunately for me, the weather turned out much better than predicted. I  used my umbrella only once, and otherwise I generally enjoyed pleasant weather and even sunshine during the rest of my visit. I took advantage of the agreeable conditions for a great deal of walking, particularly along the river.


It was a beautiful Sunday morning for a walk in Hyde Park on my first full day in London


After the walk, it was time for a traditional Sunday Roast at a pub on Old Brompton Road. Roast chicken in gravy, roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes), with a Yorkshire Pudding filled with sausages, and a little side salad.


After lunch it was time for an afternoon concert at Cadogan Hall in Sloane Square. It was such a nice afternoon outside it was hard to go indoors.


It was beautiful indoors as well. Cadogan Hall is such a great music venue. The concert was part of what had been planned as a series of five concerts of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, with Elizabeth Sombart at the piano, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. I attended the first concert in the series in November 2019, the last time I was in London. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the second, third, and fourth concerts in the series were cancelled. The fifth concert was rescheduled to a time that coincided to my recent visit and there was a certain symmetry to my being there.


I had other opportunities for long walks during my visit, including in particular as part of separate side trips to Richmond and to Hammersmith, two riverside towns west of London.  Both communities have pleasant riverside walkways (and on either side of the river, actually). One particularly fortunate attribute of the weather conditions that prevailed while I was in London was that it seemed to clear up and become sunny late in the afternoon each day. My late afternoon riverside walks in both cities were really enjoyable.


Richmond Green, a roughly 12-acre open space at the center of the town of Richmond. A very pleasant place on a fall afternoon. Legend has it that in the Middle Ages jousting tournaments took place on Richmond Green.


A view of the Thames River looking west from Richmond Bridge


The riverside at Hammersmith, viewed from the south shore. Note that the river is at low tide.


Hammersmith Bridge at dusk


My London visit did involve more than just walking through parks and along the river. I did also work a couple of museum visits into the trip, in both cases going to museums that I had not previously visited, Tate Britain and the Imperial War Museum.


Tate Britain exhibits British Art from the 15th to the 20th centuries. It has a particularly fine collection of paintings by J.M.W. Turner.


The Imperial War Museum. I never made time in prior trips to visit, but I now see that that was a mistake. It is an excellent museum, with well-designed displays highlighting interesting historical artifacts. The new WWII exhibit is particularly well done.


I also took advantage of being back in London to do some important shopping, basically replenishing critical supplies that had run low during the long travel hiatus.


Fortnum & Mason, the Royal Grocer, on Piccadilly. During my visit there, I stocked up on indispensables such as tea, coffee, and chocolate.


Just a few steps east of Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly is Hatchard’s, the oldest book store in London. I spent the afternoon in the History Books section and came away with an armful of books (I brought a separate carry bag with me to London in anticipation of the need to transport books back home).


Another famous London bookstore, Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street. The store has an eccentric organization; it groups the books by country (with fiction and nonfiction arranged together). It as an interesting place with a lot of interesting books, in an interesting arrangement.


The original Twinings tea, on The Strand (directly across the street from the Royal Courts of Justice). It was Britain’s first tea room when Thomas Twining opened it in 1706, and it as been operating on the site ever since.


For most of my London visit, things seemed more or less normal, despite the pandemic. I was comfortable traveling on the London Underground. Most passengers on the Tube were wearing masks, as were most people in shops and stores. However, on the street and in pubs, few people wore masks. As is the case in the U.S., there seems to be a split in the U.K. about how to deal with the pandemic. On my final day in London, there was a protest march on Piccadilly against vaccine passports and vaccine mandates.


Almost none of the marchers were wearing masks – and what could go wrong with tens of thousands of unvaccinated and unmasked marchers chanting, singing, and shouting? I kept my distance…


Air travel felt more or less normal as well, although as a result of the cumulative requirements of the U.S. and U.K governments, I did wind up getting tested for COVID-19 three times in less than ten days. There was a fair amount of process involved as well; a great deal of uploading of documents, filling out online forms, presenting attestations, and so on. It all seemed pointless because I had to present the actual physical documents multiple times on both ends of the trip and all of the boxes had to be checked all over again as well. In the end, the planes did fly and I did get where I wanted to go. Overall, based on my experience, it does seem like the time to start traveling again may have finally arrived.


And it really was good to be back in London again.


Green Park, the viridescent heart of London. My favorite place. It was good to be back.