Saturday, 2 November 2013

Just Another Day in the World's Greatest City

A Day in the Life of a London Walks Guide No.2*. Here's David… 


And Glee!!


Where I’m from – the message in this bottle is from David – a big deal is maybe meeting the County Coroner (in his non-professional capacity). Or the Strawberry Festival. But that only happens once a year and the intervening 364 (days) sometimes seem like they’re going to stretch out to the crack of doom.

So against that bit of bio “background” – how about “David’s day” today (Oct. 24) in London. Weigh ‘em up – “in this corner, bumping into the County Coroner at Rexal Drugs” – “and in that corner, London, Prince William, the Roof Garden, the Secret Footballer, and still another footballer – Upali Jothiratne (who played for the Sri Lankan national side and its Olympic team), Katta Sambol, and the street at the end of my road being turned into a film set.”

Nolo contendere wouldn’t you say?

Yeah, so that’s a synopsis of my day in London. Just one of my days. This stuff happens all the time. And it’s one of the very good reasons I haven’t bumped into the County Coroner since Nixon was in the White House.

I mean this morning was ok. Stuff happened. But that’s as it may. The day got up to the sort of altitude I like and hit my kind of cruising speed shortly after 2 pm. My Kensington walk. The Roof Garden was open. So a bit more altitude I guess you could say. And given all that blue sky today and warmth in the air – in late October – well, bliss. The largest and most astonishing roof garden in Europe in those conditions – it just doesn’t get any better.

Or does it? Because at the end of the walk – there we were at Kensington Palace – who should drive by (or be driven to put it precisely) – yup, you got it, the new dad. Prince William. One day after the christening. Fun. More than fun. A bit of a thrill, really. Especially for the purty dozen (well, two dozen) walkers.

So, the glow. Can get satisfaction. This town serves up great helpings of it.

Then tonight. One of those London whims. Thought I’d just throw myself into a London stream and see where the current takes me. Hopped on a 32. Got off in Cricklewood. Had my nose in The Secret Footballer, Bezos’ 99p loss leader for today. Good read.

Don’t really know Cricklewood. It’s up the road a piece. But baled and looked round. Ah, never seen one of those before. A Sri Lankan restaurant. Gonna try that. Glad I did. Run by Upali (who in his yoof played football for the Sri Lankan national team) and his wife Meepalie. One of the best meals of this good trencherman’s long life. Usually when places say “home cooking” they’re just saying. This was the genuine article. Upali said “the Prime Minister and President [of Sri Lanka] come here when they’re in London.” Quite. I’ll bet they do. And my first impression – “never seen one of these before” – was in fact spot on. There are only a couple of Singhalese restaurants in London. Unbeatable value. 8 quid. Try the Katta Sambol.

Then, like Pepys, home. Well, not quite like Pepys. Because they’ve turned the street at the end of our road into a film set. For a 1980s something about the gay community raising money for the miners. The guard told me “the miners [this kind of lock-step back woods back then homophobia is too yawn-making for words] weren’t gong to accept it but then they found out how much it was and changed their mind.”

Okay, here are the photos. That old telephone kiosk – especially the close-up! – gives the game away. “Insert a 2p piece.” Yeah, right.

And while we’re at it, how's this for some nifty sleuthing? If you have a really good peer at the telephone kiosk printed "directions for use" notice you'll see at the bottom, in red lettering, it reads: TO CALL ANOTHER NUMBER BEGINNING WITH 021 DIAL ONLY THE LAST SEVEN FIGURES. DO NOT DIAL 021. So, Eureka! Birmingham. 021 was the old dialing code for Birmingham. They're turning a London street into a 1980s Birmingham Street. Oh, and when they say dial they mean dial. Look again, the call box phone is an old dialer. Ubi sunt...?

*For a previous Day in The Life of a London Walks Guide post, click HERE

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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