Walking down a side street parallel to Ludgate Hill at the end of the afternoon today, I glanced to the right, and took this photo.
This statue is of Justice and it stands on top of the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court.
Tomorrow afternoon I am leading the public guided walk of the British Museum. Not the whole thing you understand; we’d need weeks for that. Just the highlights, the bits that’ll whet your appetite for more and more visits. I think of it is the starters and nibbles walk, preparing you for the banquet that is the British Museum. Continue reading “Tomorrow, the World”→
Bonjour, et bienvenue au Palais de Westminster.
Yes, or rather, oui, I shall be back at the Palace of Westminster again on Saturday, but this time I shall be guiding in French.
It’s not a new departure. I studied French at university and spent the obligatory year abroad, before spending a large chunk of my life teaching French in London schools. Sometimes I still miss it; wild games of Lotto with the year 7s; the francophone corner of the staffroom which marked out the MFL department; writing letters to hotels for linguistically challenged colleagues.
The first tour of parliament I led in French nearly turned me into a nervous wreck. I had a very small group, a family on their first visit to London. They stared at me and at the building. No matter what I showed or told them, their faces maintained a granite aspect. By the time we reached the Commons, I was wishing the ground would open up and swallow me. They seemed to be hating every second. Continue reading “En Français”→
Several years ago I was reading an admiring article in a French newspaper, probably Libération, about sailor Ellen MacArthur. The journalist chronicled her achievements, and her determination when still a child, to sail. All this, he wrote, despite coming from landlocked Derbyshire. If you don’t know the geography of the British Isles, that might make it sound as though young Ellen lived so far away from the sea as to make it as distant as Mars. But, as the celebrated television programme Coast used to point out every week, if you live in these islands you are never more than seventy-two miles from the sea.
So it is hardly surprising that the sea and the coastline exercises such a pull on our imaginations, and contributes so strongly to our sense of identity. I grew up in landlocked Surrey, but trips to the seaside were a feature of every summer. We explored the south coast, and had our favourite places; West Wittering, Littlehampton, Southsea.
My father loved Cornwall, but that was too far for a day trip. He was a Royal Marine Commando during the Second World War, and stationed in St Ives for part of that time. Cornwall is famous for its rugged coast, the quality of the light in the sky, its intrepid sailors, including, of course, Ben Ainslie who has just won gold at the Olympics.
Here in London there is a moving memorial to merchant seamen. The merchant fleet has contributed enormously to British trading success down the centuries. But it was only after its contribution and terrible losses in the First World War, when some fifteen thousand seamen died, that George V said it could call itself the Merchant Navy. Twelve thousand of those who died were never recovered from the sea, and Edwin Lutyens designed a memorial for them. It stands in Trinity Gardens, close to Tower Hill.
In the Second World War, some thirty thousand members of the Merchant Navy were lost at sea. Only six thousand bodies were recovered. As in 1914-18, the ships were targeted by German U-boats.
A second memorial was raised in Trinity Gardens, this time by Edward Maufe who also designed the RAF memorial at Runneymede.
An officer stands at the western entrance.
It’s a walk that corrects the balance. The stars wear petticoats, not pantaloons. Women may not apear as often as men in the history books, but that doesn’t mean they have been sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. Far from it. Knitting up a storm more like. From princesses to prostitutes, they have made their mark and shaped the world we live in today. Some have relied their looks, others their wit. Continue reading “Fair Maids, Feminists and Philanthropists”→
This is Yvonne. She is a Games Maker at the Paralympics, London 2012.
Travel around London at the moment and you’ll see many people wearing the same uniform as Yvonne.
She is one of 70,000 volunteers recruited from all walks of life who have helped make the games the huge success they are.
I travelled to the Paralmpic Park beside Yvonne on the Javelin train yesterday afternoon. We didn’t talk on the journey; she was catching up on sleep. But once we arrived we talked all the way to the station exit.
She said how much she loved what she was doing, calling the Arena Happyland, because everyone is so cheerful and positive. Continue reading “Yvonne, Games Maker”→