Working River Thames

When the Jubilee Flotilla progressed down the Thames a few weeks ago it was a reminder of how the Thames was the super highway that linked London to the rest of the world.

Today, there are far fewer boats, but if you look, you may be surprised at the number of working vessels.

Working Vessel

Bring your camera on Sunday morning’s guided walk from Monument station at 10.45.


Poetry Bombing on the South Bank

It was amazing. Poems fluttered from the helicopter onto a sea of upturned faces. People were laughing and leaping to catch them.

Strangers talked and shared their poems. There were impromptu performances. The Parnassus Poetry Festival is open.

The Poetry bombing idea comes from Chile. After Pinochet was deposed the dropping of poems symbolised the return of freedom of speech. Tonight in London every poem dropped was in English and Spanish regardless of the original language of the poem.

Here’s how SE1, the community site covered it.

Tours of Embarassment

It is a common misconception that guided walks around London are just for visiting tourists, that if you live in a place you somehow know everything about it.

I was leading a group in the British Museum the other week. A woman looked at the people with me, grinned broadly and said “Ha! I’m with local, that trumps a guided tour.”
To be fair, her companion did look rather embarrassed. How much he knew about the museum I have no idea.

Obviously, I didn’t have the opportunity to sit down with her to examine her statement; why she thought I wasn’t local for starters, and why she thought it was a competition. Or to find out why she thought it was alright to be rude to perfect strangers, who all looked rather surprised, but it does underline some people’s ambivalence to being on a tour.

So I will understand if you turn up wearing a balaclava, or dark glasses on a dull day. But it’d be a shame to leave all this fun to someone else.

A Walk in the City

Next Sunday morning I’ll be crossing the river to lead a walk around the City of London. I call it Fish and Ships, London Walks advertises it as Roaming by the River. So take your choice of title.

It was the first of my walks that London Walks agreed to put on their programme, and over the years it has changed a bit and seen a few changes. For a while, it seemed I was in a battle of wits with The City of London as to how I was going to access the bits of the riverside I wanted to talk about. Although in the City, we get some good views of Southwark.

It starts at Monument station at 10.45, lasts around two hours and costs a mere £9 or £7 for concessions. A bargain!

The Monument

You don’t have to book, just turn up. I’ll be wearing my Blue Badge and my City Badge and carrying a wodge of London Walks leaflets.

Hidden Borough Open House Event

It was when we were on the third floor, looking up at a hole in the ceiling, that I thought to ask if the building were structurally sound.

Our host, a young architect from Berlin, assured us that it was. We moved up to the top floor to inspect the rooftop shower. It was basic, a duckboard to stand on, a hosepipe, a screen so as not to frighten the horses, and a view across London. Continue reading

Hidden Borough

Received this evening by email, this invitation:

Dear friends,

tomorrow at 5 p.m the Guerilla Architects will open the doors of Great Suffolk Street 55 in London Sothwark to welcome you all.

Please check out the fallowing link on facebook for further information :

See you soon,
the Guerilla Architects


See you there!

Warehouse Adventure Great Suffolk Street SE1

A few weeks ago, walking along Great Suffolk Street in London SE1, I was rather taken by this nineteenth century building.

Victorian Warehouse SE1

In an area that is being regenerated to the last inch, I found it refreshing. I wondered about its future, imagining it converted into luxury flats, or possibly demolished to make room for a new building. I already do some walks around SE1, but I started to think about a new one where this warehouse would feature. Continue reading

Saturday at the Palace of Westminster

Had a great day guiding in the Palace of Westminster aka the Houses of Parliament today. Four lovely groups who were interested and responsive. The tour lasts just over an hour, though visitors need to arrive early to clear security. It follows the Line of Route from the Victoria Tower, leading through the Lords and then to the Commons and finishing in Westminster Hall.

My favourite room remains the Prince’s Chamber. It is, at least for the palace, intimate in scale, and the perfect setting for a winter dinner party. I said as much to one group, and a man told me I should go to Broadstairs where there is pub with a restaurant not dissimilar to the Princes Chamber.

The Prince’s Chamber

This isn’t my photo as you can’t take pictures inside the palace. I found it on Google. It is a couple of years old as the paintings of the Armada have been installed where you can see red panels at the top of the wall. Still, I hope it gives you some idea.

There were lots of new security people I did not know, but just as I ended my last tour I saw Naughty Nigel walking through Westminster Hall. It is ages since I saw him. The security staff at the palace are a good bunch and I have enjoyed working alongside them over the years.

Having got up to speed with Nigel, I turned and saw Leroy toting his gun. In the past we used to start the tours at Sovereign’s Entrance. Groups would go through security while an armed policeman stood close by. Leroy was always my favourite policeman on these occasions. He would diffuse the awkwardness by beaming at the visitors and asking them for their sweets. It always raised a smile.

I didn’t see any of the sniffer dogs today, alas. They are a happy hardworking bunch and a joy to watch.