Saturday, 15 December 2018

The Best London Christmas Shopping Tip Of All

DC Editor Adam writes…

As regular readers know I love to round up the best Christmas shopping tips in London here on The Daily Constitutional - the top shops on or near the routes of my walking tours.

Today is the second last shopping Saturday before Christmas. There's so much still to do. It's cold. We're in a rush. There's a LOT going on and maybe we're all a wee bit stressed. Even at the best of times, we Londoners like to get our heads down and get on with our daily business with our characteristic (ahem) efficiency. Good luck to all of us on this busy day, whatever your stress management techniques may be, but please don't forget…

Taking your bad mood out on retail staff won't help anyone.

Have fun!

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Friday, 14 December 2018

Christmas Shopping In Cecil Court

A London Christmas shopping tip from Karen

 Christopher St James, Cecil Court

Christopher St James Costume jeweller extraordinaire! 

As well as lovingly replicated repro Art Deco brooches and necklaces there are authentic Vintage pieces too, as well as some gorgeous statement bracelets and earrings fashioned from Bakelite  - you could leave sporting a Carmen Miranda-inspired set of earrings or a costume choker as worn by Lady Mary of Downtown Abbey fame.

His, 'ow you say, quixotic opening times add an air of exclusivity to the proceedings – worth coming back another time if you are unlucky and find him closed at your first attempt.

A can point you toward Cecil Court at the end of my Westminster tour - and my lovely colleague Richard Walker ends his Harry Potter tours in Cecil Court!

Christopher St James, Cecil Court WC2N 4HE Opening hours - Varied. Sometimes VERY varied! Best to phone 07768 548371.

Find Cecil Court here…

Book your London Walks tour with Karen…

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Thursday, 13 December 2018

They're Back! Scrawny Teddy Bears! No!

DC Editor Adam writes…

I snapped these shots last year on a Christmas wander around the West End.

Scrawny teddy bears in the Ralph Lauren window.

Horrified to see them back again this year.

Seriously Ralph Lauren? Fashion-skinny teddy bears? Size Zero teddy bears?

Teddy bears with legs like pipe cleaners? Teddy bears who smoke 40 Marlboro a day to keep their weight down for the catwalk?

Is it just me? Or is a skinny teddy bear a bit… creepy?

Fashionistas! Back off! Leave my Christmas – and my Christmas toys! – alone!

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Come and Join Me Over Christmas

DC Editor Adam writes…

Come and join me on a London Walks tour over the Christmas period.

Tours cost £10/£8 kids under 15 go free.

Pay on the day or book in advance via Pay-A-Tour (no booking fees).

Here's the full schedule…

Thursday 20th December

Old Kensington

Meet at High Street Kensington tube 2pm

Starring T.S Eliot, W.M Thackeray, Hubert Parry, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Queen Victoria and more in London's poshest village.

Tour ends at Kensington Palace near Queensway tube. 

Thursday 20th December

Jack the Ripper

Meet at Tower Hill Tube by the tram 7.30pm

The word's most enduring crime story – social history, conspiracy and gruesome murder make for an intense night.

Tour ends at Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street station.

Friday 21st December

Hidden London

(Also on Monday 24th, Friday 28th & Monday 31st December)

Meet at Monument tube (Fish Street Hill exit) 11a.m

Old City churches, the livery companies, folklore, legend and history - a celebratory exploration of 2,000 years of London history.

Tour ends at Blackfriars tube.

Friday 21st December

The London Music Tour

Meet at Tottenham Court Road tube (exit 1) 2:00p.m

The history of rock and pop in London. Beatles, Stones, Pistols, Queen, Clash and MORE.

Tour ends in Soho handy for Oxford Circus & Tottenham Court Road tubes

Thursday 27th December

Inside Covent Garden

Meet at Covent Garden Tube 10.00a.m

The West End revealed - looking beyond the shops and chain caf├ęs to the rich history of London's playground. Where possible, we'll take in a few interiors, too.

Tour ends in Trafalgar Square

Thursday 27th December

Old Westminster

Meet at Westminster tube (exit 4) 2:00p.m

1,000 years of history. Famous Westminster blended with a treasure trove of "backstage" details.

Tour ends at Westminster tube.

Thursday 27th December

Jack the Ripper

Meet at Tower Hill Tube by the tram 7.30pm

The word's most enduring crime story – social history, conspiracy and gruesome murder make for an intense night.

Tour ends at Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street station.

Want to book a private tour? Get in touch!

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Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Christmas Music - God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

DC Editor Adam takes a listen to God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen dates back to at least the 17th Century. 

The earliest known printed edition can be found in a broadsheet dating from around 1670.

Its London connection?

It's the carol being sung through Scrooge's letterbox in A Christmas Carol

"The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

“God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!”

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost. At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived."

It's a course of action he goes on to regret later in the story…

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

Six versions of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen for you to enjoy…

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Monday, 10 December 2018

Bob Cratchit's Commute From Cornhill to Camden in A Christmas Carol

DC Editor Adam writes…

A couple of Christmases ago, in honour of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's impoverished clerk in A Christmas Carol, I attempted to trace his footsteps on his journey home from Scrooge's Cornhill office to his humble abode in Camden Town.

Here's Bob (pictured) whooshing down the slide at Cornhill in a Tube doodle I made on the way to the start of the walk.

No precise details of his journey are listed in the text of A Christmas Carol, so here's the route I planned before setting off…

And here's the route I ended up following…

It's probably not as direct a route as that Bob himself would have chosen, but I tailored it to go through my beloved Clerkenwell.

On the way I snapped a few piccies of Bob Cratchit's London Christmas past, present and yet to come. I hope you enjoy them. Happy Christmas!

Christmas Present: Bob would have known the Royal Exchange…

… and the Mansion House (without cranes, buses and vans, of course)…

… here's a more contemporary view

Xmas Yet To Come… 1 Poultry, which replaced the English Gothic splendour of the old Mappin & Webb building. 

Mappin & Webb had yet to set up shop at Poultry in 1843 (when A Christmas Carol was published) but was already a going concern having been founded in Sheffield in 1775.

The view from London Wall looking toward Camden Town… slightly (ahem) obscured in the 21st Century

St Paul's – part of Bob's Xmas Present surrounded by the architecture & transport of his Xmas Yet To Come

Xmas past… 18th century headstones in Postman's Park

Little Britain – and we nod to Great Expectations as we pass

St Bartholomew-the-Great… and its literary neighbour…

Given Dickens's subject matter, was it a coincidence that I should happen upon the HQ of Save the Children in St John's Lane EC1 along the route of my Bob Cratchit stroll?

Or was it my own version of a Christmas visitation?

It's Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day on the 14th December 2018. Here's how to join in…

Onward to Clerkenwell Green…

Past AND Present – a father explains to his daughter what these weird red cupboards are all about on Clerkenwell Green

Spirit of Xmas Past: Do you recognise this place?

Scrooge: Recognise it?! I was apprenticed here!

My own Christmas past… 34 Clerkenwell Close (pictured above) is the first office in which I worked in London. The building is a former ink factory and it was from here that I first explored London on foot, stumbling upon so many Dickens locations in my lunch hour wanders that golden hindsight tells me that every day was a literary fireworks display.

This is where I fell in love with London and I will find any excuse to pass through this most wonderful of London neighbourhoods.

A tree grows in Clerkenwell

Scrooge asks: Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons? On the right of the shot above stood Clerkenwell Prison – or The House of Detention. Torn down in 1890, the vaults still exist, beneath what was the playground of the Hugh Myddleton School, now flats. In the 1860s, the prison looked like this…

Next, my route went via…

… and past George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras hotel…

… via the British Library…

This excellent British Library film looks at The Origins of A Christmas Carol

On to Somers Town…  

… and St Mary's Church, a building personally familiar to the young Dickens, who lived at Cranleigh Street…

… in conditions far from affluent. The plaque was unveiled in 2013 by actor Simon Callow. 

All told it was a walk of some 3.7 miles. So Bob's commute was at least 7 miles on foot every day.

Here's another link to Save the Children.

If any of you Daily Constitutionalists end up doing your own version of Bob's walk, do drop me a line at the usual address, send me your pics, or leave a comment below…

Merry Christmas!

From the London Walks Podcast Archive… A Christmas Carol. Listen here…

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