As well as leading walk for families, companies and individuals, I lead a number of tours where members of the public can join me and pay an individual fee. Today, Saturday, I was working in the Palace of Westminster, aka the Houses of Parliament; a prestigious establishment and one that happily kept me out of the rain.
If the weather forecast is correct, I should remain dry tomorrow too, as the rain is due to die away as I begin C the City at 10.45 outside St Paul’s tube station, exit 2. Continue reading
Millicent Fawcett has been in the news a fair amount recently for a woman who has been dead for 89 years. So what’s all the fuss about?
Maquette in City Hall
Well, a statue of her has been unveiled in Parliament Square this week as part of the commemorations marking a century since women in the UK got the vote. The struggle was long and difficult, and a number of bodies, including parliament, are hoping an awareness of how hard women had to fight for the right for a say in our parliament might encourage more women, especially young women, to vote.https://goo.gl/images/p1EnSR
As 2018 rolls on, the issues surrounding the silencing of women in today’s world are getting more attention, so maybe it’s going to be the moment when generations of women start to assert their rights at the ballot box.
Fawcett was a suffragist, not a suffragette, and it’s important to remind ourselves that there were many women’s organisations demanding the right to vote, many voices, not a single one, just as women today come in all shades of political hue and hold widely diverging opinions.
In 2020 it will be four hundred years since the Pilgrim Fathers set off for the new world on board The Mayflower, sailing to join another ship, The Speedwell, in Southampton. But after springing a leak, The Speedwell did not make the journey across the Atlantic, and her passengers crowded onto The Mayflower which left Plymouth alone 6th September 1620.
Pilgrim Father with C20 Child
1620 A-Z of the New World
This week the public walks I am doing are:
Monday: British Museum highlights, meet outside Russell Sq tube station for 2.30
Wednesday: Old London – St Paul’s to the Tower, meet outside x2 St Paul’s station for 2.15
Thursday: The Famous Old Square Mile, meet outside Monument station for 11.00
Saturday: C the City, meet meet outside x2 St Paul’s station for 2.30
London under snow was beautiful, but I can’t say I’m sorry the thaw has come. It was cold. Now the mercury is rising, the daylight hours are longer, and with the snow gone growth is apparent everywhere you look.
I’ll be leading a number of public tours over the next few weeks, starting with one around the Elephant and Castle on Sunday.
Royal London exerts a certain pull and many visitors to the capital have Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace high on their lists of things to see. Others head out to Hampton Court, the sumptuous palace created by Thomas Wolsey and expanded by Henry VIII. Then there’s Greenwich where just one wall remains of the palace where Henry VIII was born. In Bermondsey you can see the site of Edward III’s manor house uncovered by archaeologists.
Fewer visitors make the trip out to Eltham Palace, SE9, and that’s a shame because it is a wonderful place, managed today by English Heritage, the same organisation that manages Stonehenge.
I was there last week on a thrillingly cold day where fortunately the sun put in an appearance by late morning. It’s an easy trip by public transport, take the train from Charing Cross or London Bridge and you’ll be there in a trice. Alternatively, don your walking boots and follow the Green Chain Walk or the Capital Ring.
How can I walk there?
These panels at the ticket office and visitor centre, where there’s also a shop and a café, helpfully give the site’s history.
There should really be another panel explaining how English Heritage manages the site now. Continue reading
Some months ago I picked up a copy of Time Out, the now free listings magazine. Flipping through the pages, I found these startling words by James Manning:
“Most London walking tours suck. You’d be hard pressed to find many that stray off well-trodden patches such as the West End, Camden Town and Brick Lane, or any that show a new side of the city to people who live there.”
I can only assume James has been looking in the wrong places. I lead walks all over London, places not mentioned in the guide books, places in south London North Londoners have probably never visited, and it’s local people who tend to be the most surprised at what is on their doorstep. Here’s a little taste of things you might see or hear about on my tours.
As I’ve said before, being a guide is a licence to be nosy, and going on a guided walk is a licence to stop and stare. Apparently James doesn’t want to feel like a tourist, and mysteriously thinks no one else wants to feel like one either. There are so many things in this short piece that feel off key. You can read it all here if you want to see what I mean.
Tourist is not a pejorative term, being a tourist is enjoyable. It’s about visiting places and finding out about them, seeing the things everyone has heard of and seeing out the hidden corners, the unexpected, the everyday and the surprising – which can sometimes be the same thing. At its best, being a tourist is about finding wonder in places both familiar and foreign. Continue reading
Being a professional Tourist Guide is a licence to be nosy. A licence to stop and stare. We are in storytellers; not tellers of untruths, but tellers of tales of real people, real places and real objects. I’m a trained journalist as well as a Tourist Guide, so it’s second nature to look at something and wonder what the story is behind it.
At the weekend I made a long overdue visit to West Norwood Cemetery, one of the original Magnificent Seven, nothing to do with Clint Eastwood et al, but seven large private cemeteries in London established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds.
West Norwood Cemetary
I visited on a whim, so didn’t have any information with me, nothing about the famous and infamous dead or where their graves were, but with forty acres to explore on a bright cold morning I was happy to wander. Up by the crematorium and chapel I recognised this name, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
If you have ever done my guided tour of the Elephant and Castle, you’ll have heard me talk about Spurgeon, the baptist preacher who took London by storm when he was still in his 20s. Somewhat inappropriately he was often referred to as the Pope of Newington Butts, his influence was so strong. His sermons were translated into several languages, published and widely read, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle that was his church is still at the heart of the Elephant, though damaged by bombing in the Second World War. Haddon died in Menton, France while on holiday, but his body was brought back to London where 60,000 people filed past his casket in the Tabernacle. He was buried at Norwood Cemetery on February 11 1892. Continue reading
This film, now showing in cinemas around the UK, tells the story of Winston Churchill’s opening months as Leader of the House in the Second World War. It tells a familiar tale, but also raises other issues – Churchill’s support for Edward VIII’s marriage to Wallis Simpson for one.
It reminds us that Churchill was not the steady pair of hands we have learned to regard him as with hindsight, but a risky bet at a time when the stakes could not be higher. History is played with, facts are ignored or contradicted as happens when the film maker wants to make a good story.
But on the whole, the facts do survive fairly intact. Churchill’s alcohol consumption, which is pretty prodigious, is addressed in the opening frames. His unorthodox orthodoxy, the contradictions and contrariety of his character become abundantly clear. Continue reading
I bow to no one in my belief that London is one of the greatest cities in the world. I never intended to stay here. I came meaning to leave after four years. That was long ago. How do you leave a city that is endlessly fascinating, that is the definition of multicultural, where there is so much to do, to see?
This weekend we have been enjoying Lumière London organised by the amazing Artichoke, it gets people onto the streets in the coldest part of the year to enjoy wondrous illuminations. It’s free, so a great leveller. Old and young, monied and hard up can all enjoy the fun.
With events like these I fall in love with London all over again. Not that it stops me visiting ng other parts of the UK. Belfast is a favourite destination, and I am lucky that as my mother came from Co Derry I have family and friends in Northern Ireland it is a second home.
However, I wouldn’t do a day trip to Belfast from London. I’ll leave that fro the business travellers. But there are many other wonderful places you can visit from London. This year i have enjoyed two day trips. The first was to Leigh-on-Sea on the Essex coast. I have been there before and really enjoyed it. This visit confirmed my impressions.