Wednesday, 31 August 2011

It's a London Thing No.44: Old Men & Tower Bridge

It’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.


London’s most famous bridge is undoubtedly Tower Bridge. Indeed Tower Bridge is so famous that many first time visitors (and perhaps even some Londoners) still think that it is called London Bridge. An easy mistake to make, I suppose.


(London Good Deed: If a visitor should approach you asking for directions to London Bridge, don’t just blithely send ‘em off to the plain Jane that links The City with The Borough. Ask them first to describe the bridge in question. Eight times out of ten they’ll be looking for Tower Bridge.)

This is not to do London Bridge a disservice. London Bridge is the best vantage point from which to witness one of the truly great London Things.

Tower Bridge opens around 1000 times a year to allow river traffic to pass underneath on the way upstream. Twenty-four hours notice is required if you are bringing your vessel through this famous London gateway. And watching it open is most certainly A London Thing. But there’s more.

Standing on London Bridge watching the people who are watching Tower Bridge raise its famous bascule mechanism is an event in itself. Everyone stops to watch, women, men, boys, girls. And they all enjoy the spectacle.

But keep a particular eye on gentlemen of, ‘ow you say, a certain age.

They’re not just making the decision to stop: they are compelled to do so. Some atavistic impulse has rooted them to the spot; something lost deep in childhood, something about the noble calling of engineering, something about Empire, about a Golden Age. There’s a misty eyed feeling about them as they watch. And there’s a singular joy in watching someone glory in a simple pleasure.

Watching Blameless Middle-Aged/Older/Old Men As They Watch Tower Bridge Open. It’s a London Thing.


POST UPDATED 2/3/16


A London Walk costs £10 – £8 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 www.walks.com.









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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The London Reading List No.4

Tuesday is great London books day on The Daily Constitutional. Give us your own recommendations at the usual email address



SS-GB
Len Deighton (1978)

As a Londoner Len Deighton always gives the Big Smoke a leading role in his works. Whether it’s in his anti-Bond spy novels told by a nameless narrator (“Harry Palmer” in the movies, The Ipcress File, etc) or his highly personal and utterly fascinating work of non-fiction London Dossier (1967), the capital features as a character in her own right. In SS-GB, his “alternative history” novel set in 1941, London is seen as never before – or rather, as never was. And it is a chilling view.


The SS is in residence at Scotland Yard; King George is in the Tower; Churchill has been executed. London is in ruins. And the details in the bomb-blasted backdrop are vivid and startling to any Londoner. In one scene, our hero, D.I Archer (now in the employ of the SS) takes a short cut into Soho through the wreckage of the Palace Theatre – meanwhile, the Metropole music hall on the Edgware Road is still standing. In perhaps the most delicious detail, Archer drives both ways along the (now strictly one-way) Tottenham Court Road. These snapshots of an alternative London leap out of a characteristically compelling Deighton narrative, buttressed by his trademark meticulous period research. In the year after Ian Fleming’s centenary, why not commemorate Len Deighton’s 80th birthday year by flicking through the pages of this his most memorable London novel. (The edition shown is the 1980 Panther paperback.)




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Monday, 29 August 2011

In and Around London... Amy Winehouse’s Camden II

Monday is mute on the London Walks Blog (well, almost mute) – because Monday is the day when we post five images captured in and around London by London Walks Guides, London Walkers and Facebook friends. Collated on a theme or an area, if you've got some great shots of our capital and want to join in send your pictures to the usual address.



David’s sequel to Judith’s shots last Monday (click HERE).

The accompanying words to David’s shots can be read HERE.

The Camden Town Walk goes every Saturday at 11am.












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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Lord North Street: The Saturday Street


The Saturday Street is our NEW weekly series in which we unlock the stories behind the names of London's famous thoroughfares. It's compiled by London Walks guide Karen – listed by Travel + Leisure magazine as The World's Greatest Tour Guide. You can find Karen on Saturdays guiding her Old Westminster and British Museum walks. If you've got a London street query or suggestion, email Karen at the usual address



Lord North Street SW1
Location: Westminster

Dating from 1722, this beautifully preserved Georgian street is named for Frederick North, 2nd earl of Guilford, our Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782. Which makes him the Prime Minister who lost America, our favourite colony. Thankfully, we’re all chums now. North was also the first PM to be removed from the hotseat by a motion of no confidence.

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Friday, 26 August 2011

The Friday Postcard From London – 26th August 1947


Dear Mr & Mrs Walker,

How many postcards have we sent from Fleet Street now? We’ve lost count! We just can’t keep away from the place, so much of London’s story is hidden along here.

The Evening Standard is advertised on the back of the bus. Back in ’47 it had to compete with The Evening News. These days it’s the last London paper left.


Wish you were here

D.C

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