Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pomp & Circumstance Walk No.3


There is, as the old song goes, no business like Show Business.

And nowhere in the WORLD stages a show quite like old London Town.

This Wednesday the 2nd of December, London Walks gives you a ringside seat at one of the City’s oldest ceremonies.

In line with nearly 700 years of tradition, the Worshipful Company of Butchers will present the Lord Mayor with a boar’s head.

A City of London spokeperson, interviewed by the Daily Telegraph last year, gave these insights into the ceremony:

“The presentation of a boar’s head is one of the oldest traditions in the City as it dates back to 1343 when John Hammond was the Lord Mayor. He helped the butchers by allowing the guild to purchase some land by the Fleet river where they could slaughter animals for sale in markets. In return, the Guild of Butchers give a yearly payment to the Lord Mayor at Christmas – hence the presentation of the boar’s head. As the happy carol has it: ‘The boar’s head as I understand, is the greatest gift in all the land’.”

See the procession – and get pics of London that no other visitor will be bringing home this year – in the company of an award-winning Blue Badge Guide of the YearKaren will meet you at Farringdon Station at 1.45p.m. (You'll recognise her: she's the star of the first London Walks film, currently sailing toward 20,000 hits on YouTube. View it HERE.)

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Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Weekly Gallimaufry 29:11:09

Coming this December on the LW Blog… We’re making like a movie trailer this week on The Gallimaufry ‘cos we’ve got a plethora of Hollywood connections coming up on our London Walks in this the last month of 2009…


Cowboys & Gangsters Down South

London Walks guide Isobel makes her LW Blog debut this week (Welcome aboard! Ed.) with tales of tripping over Hollywood cowboys and gangsters as she tries to guide down Walworth way on her Past Preserved – Nooks & Crannies in Charlie Chaplin’s London walk. The LW Blog post appears this week – the walk happens next Sunday 6th December (Facebook Group will soon be “in the loop” on this one. Sign up below.).

(Pic of Michael Caine in the movie Harry Brown: the movie's website is HERE.)

The Game’s Afoot!

On the 26th December the Sherlock Holmes movie finally hits the big screen. This non-canonical tale (meaning it’s an original story and exists outside the ‘canon’ of 56 short stories and four novels penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) promises action aplenty. To bone up on the great detective and his London before seeing the movie, join Richard IV or Corinna every Friday afternoon to follow In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes. (Keep an eye on the LW Blog, too: we’ve got a picture special lined up for December putting The London of Sherlock Holmes under the magnifying glass.)

(The image above is a free downloadable wallpaper from the Official Website of the Sherlock Holmes movie from Warner Brothers: Click HERE to view the site with trailers and more.)


A Reading List Special

Last April, London Walks guides nominated their favourite works of Charles Dickens – and then turned the shortlist over to the London Walks Walkers who voted for their favourite. The result? London’s Favourite Dickens is A Christmas Carol. Come back to visit us later in December to find out why… (In the meantime, have a look HERE for details of Christmas with London Walks.)

(And we’ve heard a little rumour that there’s a movie of this one, too!)


A Walker Writes…

This in by email from Stephanie in North Carolina:

“Dear London Walks,

I embarked on my first solo trip to London in November 2009. As a woman travelling alone, I was timid of discovering things to do on my own. This is where London Walks comes in!

I took on a total of nine walks in the course of my stay. I feel the need to compliment you on the guides who elicited such interest and adventure as well as their vast knowledge which matched the theme of every walk. In essence each guide made it so worthwhile.

The guides I had the delight of meeting were:

Tom (my favorite!), Adam , Brian, Laurence, Peter, Richard III and Angela.

Each one of these individuals made my trip to London more enjoyable than I could have ever envisioned!

I expect to return to London in the future and you bet I will be taking on many more London Walks!

Best Regards,

Stephanie H”


Humble thanks for your high praise, Stephanie, and we look forward to welcoming you back to our city soon.


The Truth Is Out There II

Earlier this year we highlighted the story from the Hampstead and Highgate Express exposing UFO’s over Hampstead Heath. Now the BBC is at it. Has a UFO been spotted over the 2012 Olympic site? Judge for yourself HERE.

On the subject of the unexplained, we’re currently in possession of some pics sent to us by a London Walker who joined us on the Ghosts of the Old City walk this last Halloween. And they make for intriguing viewing. Talk about paranormal activity! Come back later in December to view the evidence that ghosts really do exist


A Walker Writes Too…

Busy post bag (well, email Inbox) this November (we’ll share a few more over the next few weeks) but here’s a short one from Chris, winner of our recent competition:

“Just a quick email to say thank you very much. The book arrived the other day and it’s fab.”

In an earlier email he added the plaintive line: “I’ve never won anything before.”

What he won was a copy of the indispensable Dictionary of London Phrase & Fable (pictured) published by Chambers. (Our thanks go to Chambers once again for putting up such a splendid prize – and, of course, to all who entered. Keep an eye out for more LW Blog competitions in the near future.)


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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to all London Walkers! And on this American Day of Days, who better than David – Wisconsonite and ferociously proud denizen of London, both – to take the helm of the LW Blog? Here he is with a special linguistic and etymological fireworks display for Thanksgiving:

“Famously, London Walks guides – brighter, bolder and better read – bedazzle.

Connections – making them and having them – are a classic case in point.

So just for fun – especially if you’re an American – here’s some Anglo-American, London Walks-London-American razzmatazz connections.

And, yes, why not invoke six degrees of separation? Since in this case the ‘at most six steps’ – separating you Yanks and Mary (yes that Mary, the London WalksBoss’) – aren’t back-to-back paces, they’re a pas de deux. (But what’d you expect? She was a ballet dancer, after all.)

And I’m not talking about the fact that she shares the same name – Mary Chilton – with the first European woman to step ashore at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Yes, that Mary Chilton was a pilgrim on the Mayflower. She was 13-years-old. Like our Mary she was from Kent. She was so excited she jumped off the little row boat and waded ashore and bob’s your uncle.

And I’m not talking about the fact that our Mary has a famous father – 'the one true genius the BBC ever produced' – who, along with Winston Churchill, was the world’s biggest Americanophile. He wrote and produced famous BBC programme after famous BBC programme that looked very affectionately, bedazzlingly at America and its history.

And I’m not talking about the fact that our Mary is married to a Yank (Me! From the Land of the Gathering Waters) and she’s the mother of three American kids (okay, they’re also English – as they said when they were winks, “my mummie’s English and my daddy’s American and I’m haf and hawf”).

What I am talking about is 457 AD. Talking about London – or Londinium as it would have been called then – taking in the British survivors of a battle fought in Kent (yes, Kent again) against the fierce warriors of the Saxon chieftain Hengist. Recorded history doesn’t come much starker. Because that’s it – after that scrap of 457 AD information – London disappears from the historical record for a century and a half. The Mary Celeste of cities.


Okay, now what I need you to do, American cousins, is take out a dollar bill. Or your passport for that matter. That pyramid-eye thingie on the back of your buck is the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. It’s also on your passport.

And here’s the wonderful connection. Hengist – his name means 'stallion' – is traditionally taken to be the founder of Kent, Mary’s county. More to the point here, a certain Thomas Jefferson – remember him? – sat on a committee (along with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams) that decided on the design of the Great Seal. Jefferson didn’t get his way. What he wanted on the reverse side was Hengist (and his brother Horsa, whose name means, yes, you got it in one, “horse”). Jefferson wanted them because they were the legendary leaders of the first Anglo-Saxon settlers in Britain (another Mary Chilton connection anyone?). And because – and this is the big one – Jefferson believed the English possess a natural sense of liberty which came, via the Angles and Saxons, from the forests of northern Germany. And was personified by Hengist (and Horsa).

So if Jefferson had had his way – well, how, er, merry, would that have been? You’d all be carrying around in your wallets a spellbinding, indeed indissoluble American-London-London Walks-Mary connection. But the mind’s eye – forget that pyramid eye – will do just as well.

And on that note… (Though one could go on and on, couldn’t one? The English love of horses. London being the horsiest town on the planet. The London Walk that takes in the ancient blessing of the horses ceremony. The tantalising question – how good is Mary’s horsemanship? Etc.)”

And off he goes, saddled on his trusty steed (in this case a motorbike), a modern-day Paul Revere spreading The Message. And the message is? Well, you’ll have to meet him at Kensington this afternoon. That’s right: David’s working up an appetite for his Thanksgiving turkey by leading his Kensington Walk at 2.00p.m today!

Happy Thanksgiving London Walkers all!


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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Great London Walks Virtual Monopoly Game Roll #6: Thanksgiving Special!

This occasional LW Blog series is a virtual tour of the London Monopoly board in which we give you a “Did you know?” London fact with which to amaze your fellow kitchen table capitalists next time you are playing the classic Hasbro board game…


Rolling the dice we throw a… five and a one: 6!

From the “Leicester Square” square (see last roll), this roll takes us to… Oxford Street.

The second of the green squares, situated in the north-eastern corner of the board and worth £300 on a traditional English game board, Oxford Street is London’s principal shopping thoroughfare… which gives us the opportunity to mark Thanksgiving AND celebrate a London centenary!

Born in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1858, Harry Gordon Selfridge came to London in 1906 and opened his department store – at a cost of £400,000 – three years later at the west end of Oxford Street. Many credit him with inventing the phrase “The customer is always right” (although other sources say it was Cesar Ritz and others yet John Wannamaker) and also the marketing countdown “Only __ Shopping Days to Christmas!”.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy 100th Birthday to Selfridges.

(Catch a glimpse of Selfridges on the Marylebone Pub Walk every Thursday)

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Blog Extra (or… Strewth! The Game's Afoot!)






Extra… We interrupt our American Thanksgiving celebrations to head for Australia…





This morning London Walks guide Adam spent an enjoyable hour in the company of Aussie weatherman Steven Jacobs (that’s him pictured in deerstalker and cape!) and the guys from Australia’s TV Channel Nine recording a few brief segments for the Today show.

The tour was In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and the results can be seen on the Today show going out at 7.30p.m GMT (that’s English time). For those outside Australia, you can view the results on Network Nine’s live Internet streaming service HERE.

(TV and print media from around the world have come to London Walks for their background research in the run-up to Guy Ritchie's movie. You can do likewise every Friday afternoon with London Walks on the only regular scheduled Sherlock Holmes tour in town.)

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