Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker…
Going to put in a word about – ok, sing the praises of – “the boss”.
Mary (“Poppins”) is “practically perfect”. A classically trained dancer and an actress (West End credits include Gone with the Wind, a long stint at the Royal National Theatre and Noises Off), she’s a trapeze artiste, an award-winning, professionally qualified Blue Badge and City of London Guide – and the boss.
That’s the graf – the little capsule “bio” – about her on the London Walks Guides page.
And no, I’m not sucking up. It’s David writing this. Mary’s my English rose, my wife.
When we travel with friends we all call her Scout. Because she’s up on the point. Takes the lead. Figures out the best way to get there. She’s one of life’s map readers. One of the world’s great organisers – figure-er outers, problem solvers.
Now if that were my bent too this marriage would have been on the rocks before it got out of the driveway. But it’s not. That’s the joy of it. (Well, one of the joys.)
I’m not practical. I’m Buddha-happy having somebody else take care of all that stuff. I just want to read, explore my mistress (fuhgeddit this isn’t some sort of Oprah – or God forbid, Jerry Springer – confession; which is by way of saying, my mistress is London), wind my kids up, Pip and Pocket around with pals, day dream, do what I want to do when I want to do it, flit and sip, busy myself with my latest “thing” (of late it’s sticking banderillas into the Jack Daniels poster advertising campaign down the Tube [if only it were]) – well, you get the idea.
So to have Scout on the point – making all that possible – well, the question isn’t, “who’s your daddy?” it’s “who’s a very very lucky boy?”
And who’s a very very lucky cohort of London Walkers and “interested parties” who avail themselves of what London Walks does. Does in non pareil fashion.
This is a young lady who knows her London. Nth degree doesn’t do it justice. Mary’s operating in some quantum physics realm that’s way beyond “Nth degree”. The classic example – friends and family are hugely fond of this (and not a little in awe of it) – there’s about 275 stations on the London Underground – you could lead “the boss” aka Scout into just about any of them and she’ll know where to stand on the platform so the “connection” (whatever it is, changing, e.g. at Baker Street from the Jubilee Line to the Bakerloo Line) is made in the most optimally efficient manner possible.
Takes all the worry – all the bother, all the stumbling around – out of it.
And London Walks implications? Well, I’ve just come upstairs to write this. Come upstairs from hearing her on the phone to someone who’d booked a private walk and was worried about whether it could be made to dovetail with catching the Guard Change.
Mary: “There are several possibilities. Two of them work very well. The other two are more problematic. If you have to start the walk at [whatever time] your best bet would be to go for the end of the Guard Change. You see just as much. It’s every bit as impressive – in fact you’ll be able to get closer – Ann will take you to the very best viewing spot and the whole thing will work a treat.”
And I’m thinking, “that’s a foreign visitor on the other end of that line – I hope they know – I’m sure they must do – how lucky they are to have Mary on the end of the line, to be able to draw on her incomparable knowledge, sureness of touch, second-‐to-‐none judgement, and just general ‘big picture’ grasp of how to do it best.
To have her solving their problems for them.
To have Scout.
Have Scout, Will Travel (to London) reads the card of an army of London Walkers.