Saturday, 1 November 2014

Streets Ahead

Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker

Pearl diving Polynesians.

It’s their art, their line of work, their skill set, their experience.

Ain’t nobody else can do it.

Top flight, really experienced, savvy London Walks guides – they’re pearl diving Polynesians.*

After a fashion.

They’re pearl diving Polynesians because they know where to dive, how to get down there, where to look, what to pick out when they’re down there, and how to get back up with it.

Ok, time for a word interlude. (What’d you expect? c’est moi, David, he who “broods over words.”)


Let’s dive into it.

The Greek word sophos means wise. The word sophisticated, for example, is fruit from the same tree.

Okay, that’s halfway along the high wire of the word sophomore. 

Let’s go all the way over.

The Greek word moros means foolish. The word moronic is fruit from that tree.

Put ‘em together – conjoin them with the ring of that middle “o” – you get soph-o-more: sophomore. You get, in short, wise moron, wise fool – a wet-behind-the-ears plonker who thinks he’s got it figured out but in reality doesn’t know jack squat.

In the rem acu tetigisti observation of Daniel Boulet: “if you think that you understand the City of London, then you clearly don’t understand the City of London.”

London Walks guides are pearl divers for 51.5072° N, 0.1275° W.  (Yes, you got it – those are the Latitude and Longitude coordinates for London.)

This is not something you do off the boat (so to speak). Well, anybody can dive in – but you can’t do it properly unless you know what you’re doing, know the waters, know the depths, know what’s down there. Know how to get down there and get back up with the best stuff.

Ok, howzabout a case in point? David Low’s studio in Hampstead. The sophomore – like the walkers – isn’t going to know where it is. Or if he is lucky enough to spot the plaque that’s as far down as he’ll go.

Whereas a great guide, well…

This maybe:

“Up there, in that studio – that’s where Colonel Blimp was born.”


“That door there, if the Nazis had got here there would have been storm troopers kicking that door in. Storm troopers “just following orders.” Orders in the shape of a nod from a hard-eyed, black leather trench-coated Gestapo type.”

And that’s by way of saying David Low was on Hitler’s shit list. One of many names to be rounded up and “dealt with” when the Nazis got here.

The screaming little defective in the Reich Chancellery wasn’t best pleased with the way David Low “cartooned” him.

Anyway, those are the “pearls” this London Walks “diver” brings up from “down there.”

And as long as we’re at it, was tempted to say “some jumped up Gestapo functionary – his eyes glowing like plated Mars.”

Tempted because, yes, I’m re-reading – must be the eighth or ninth time – Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra. For my Shakespeare’s London Walk.

And to lean into the hairpin:

Well’s pretty well full up. Talking about the RAM – the memory – on this Mac.

So, desperate to free up some space I went where I never go – into the Spam File of the Email programme. Thinking, “get in there and hit DELETE, might free up a megabyte or two or ten.”

And sure enough, amongst the rest of the steaming pile of crap in there, a couple of those “add three inches” come-ons.**



That’s what. SNAP! Because I’m re-reading Antony & Cleopatra.

Cleopatra’s handmaidens Iras and Charmian are having their fortunes told by a soothsayer.

Here’s the bit of dialogue in question.

Your fortunes are alike.

But how, but how? give me particulars.

I have said.

Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?

Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than
I, where would you choose it?


Not in my husband's nose.

Spam. Shakespeare. A London Walks literary walk. A London Walks pearl diving guide. That all-important London Walks motif: it’s all about making connections.*** To wit: that moronic – sophomoric? – MP recently sexting a male tabloid journalist who’d posed as a wide-eyed, pretty, young Baltic female Conservative party groupie…When the, er, tale emerged it was headlined, in one tabloid, “Look at the Size of My Majority.” Greatly contributing to the gaiety of the nation, needless to say. Also needless to say, that’s gaiety in the old fashioned sense of the word.

There’s nothing new under the sun. (Apart from maybe the, er, inflation, In short [yes, I know], one inch in Shakespeare’s day has, now, in the Land of Digital Diddleyums, swollen – so to speak – to three inches.)

*In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker star staff writer, says it takes 10,000 hours to become supremely proficient at something. 10,000 hours to become a master craftsman – to get really good at what you do. 

You want that translated into London Walks terms? Figure about five years to become a top flight guide.

About five years. That’s if someone’s starting from scratch.

And that in turn is why the bar to entry here is so high – namely a professional background.  By definition accomplished professionals aren’t “starting from scratch.” (By bar to entry I mean of course what people have to bring to the party before we’ll even consider them for a place on the London Walks team of guides.)

**Aside: what sort of low lifes go in for that line of work? And, the other side of that coin, what sort of moron takes the bait, gets out the credit card and forks out?

***Making connections is the motif that perhaps best gets at what’s important, how it’s done, what we do. And no wonder it’s good – it was coined by one of the all-time great London Walks pearl divers: Adam. Who into the bargain is the Daily Constitutional Editor!

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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London Spy 01:11:14

It's our London news round-up. A few headlines that caught the eye in London this week, click the links below for the full stories…

THEATRE: Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Announces 2015 Season – Official London Theatre Guide

SOCIETY: Mapping London Life – The Guardian

TRANSPORT: Tube Etiquette From Debrett's – Evening Standard

WEATHER: Hi-Tech Forecasts – London 24

BOOKS: Book Review – Nairn's London – The Guardian

RECREATION: Skate Park Gets Listed Status – BBC

SPORT: Big Bucks in NFL London – BBC

SPORT: And Now It's The NBA In London – The Independent

ART: Inside Lucien Freud's Kensington Home – The Daily Telegraph

 And a MUST READ London Blog of the Week…

We are thoroughly addicted to the blog London Buses: And Now London's Museums

Three London women – Linda, Mary & Jo – have travelled (and blogged about) every single London bus route (549 of 'em, BOTH ways). 

And their new challenge is to visit each and every one of London's museums!

Good luck gals! Your blog is wonderful.

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Friday, 31 October 2014

#Halloween 2014: 1 Hour To Go…

It's One Hour To Go until our first Halloween Ghosts Walk of 2014 kicks off… after which it's BACK TO NORMAL (!) with our blog.

To get the ball rolling, here's Foodie Ann, who's leading her Foodies London Walk tomorrow morning at 10:45a.m from Embankment Station…

If we survive tonight, that is… (Woo-ha-ha, a-woo-ha-ha-ha!)*

“It’s Halloween, the scariest night of the year. Witches and ghosts are abroad, not to mention small children trick or treating. A more ancient tradition is bobbing for apples – lean over a bowl of water and try to catch an apple with your teeth. Once you’ve caught your apple, sit in front of the mirror eating it by candlelight, and a vision of your future husband will appear over your shoulder… maybe.

Halloween also means pumpkins. When you’ve succeeded in hollowing out your pumpkin lantern, what are you going to do with the middle? Here are a few suggestions.

Boil or steam, mash, then use to stuff ravioli. Make a pumpkin risotto. Bake with tomatoes and cooked cannellini beans, or with cream and sage, or with sausages. Pumpkin soup. Candied pumpkin. Roast pumpkin with garlic and ginger, or with Indian spices. And you can always make pumpkin pie, and pretend it’s Thanksgiving.

(* Spooky Laughter)

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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#Halloween 2014… 2 Hours To Go

A few shots on and around the Ghosts of the Old City Walk.


The Ghostly Old City on Halloween goes at 7.00pm from St. Paul's Tube, exit 2

The Halloween West End Ghost Walk goes at 7.30 pm from Embankment Tube

Haunted London on Halloween goes at 7.30 pm from Monument Tube, the Fish Street Hill exit

Ghosts, Gaslight & Guinness on Halloween goes at 8 pm from Holborn Tube

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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