Thursday, 25 July 2013

Streets Ahead: Research, Research, Research

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

A quick follow-up to the Field Marshal Alan Brooke piece (posted yesterday, read it HERE.)

Offered up in the interests of giving you a peek beneath the bonnet of this craft of ours.

Out on the pavement - guiding - the "Brooke moment" takes just a minute or two.*

And what goes into making that minute or two?

1. Serious reading. And I mean serious. Not just hours of it. A lifetime of it. The lifetime of it is for the deep background.** And, yes, sure, there's also a good many hours of it for the foreground, for what's in the crosshairs - for the Brooke statue.

2. Spatial awareness. Which is something outsiders won't know about - at least in terms of guiding. It's hugely important. The cream of the crop have it. Second raters - let alone the "learn-a-'script’-by-rote" mob - don't have it, will never have it. Deserves its own post, the which is in the pipeline.

Anyway, back to the serious reading.

Ten sources. That's what went into the Brooke piece.

Two biographies of Brooke, one of them a full length book. Brooke's Diary. A magisterial biography of Churchill. A ten-year-old Atlantic Monthly article. Heaven's Command, the first volume of Jan Morris's incomparable trilogy about the British Empire. London's Immortals, the big, beautiful (and now out of print) coffee table book about London statues. The Ministry of Defence. (Yes, I talked to them.) Personal knowledge (that's a story in its own right, maybe another post's worth). And, finally, yes, Wikipedia. But you know something, be instructive for you to look at the Wikipedia entry on Brooke and compare it to the piece I Posted. In short, virtually nothing in the post came from Wikipedia. Bottom line: you've got a guide who's just using Wikipedia you're being seriously shortchanged.

*That's why, incidentally, the Blog piece was in the shape it was. The bullet point shape, the eight or nine "takeaway nuggets" shape. It's in that shape because it's more or less a straight lift from what gets said and how it gets said when I guide the Brooke statue. Guiding's not a historical treatise - or even a magazine article. A guiding stop is not a half hour magazine article read, let alone a 10-20 hour history book read. It's just a minute or two - which means, if you think about it, zingers ("takeaway nuggets") rather than leisurely, ample, take-you-through-all-of-it paragraphs.  Think speed boat rather than ocean liner.

**Yes, serious reading. Accomplished professionals bring that to the party. As do top university graduates (goes without saying that the one category is part and parcel of the other). That's one of the "attainments" you have to have to become a London Walks guide. Footnote here, but boy is it important. Fronting our walks with guides of that calibre is what sets London Walks apart - it's why we're in a category of one.

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