Friday, 30 January 2009

Acc–ent–uate the Negative?

We love London. Of course we do. But before we get all misty eyed, and in the interests of balance, David brings us this rather uncomplimentary view of our great metropolis. The accompanying illustration (above) shows a man, like the one below, who has recently grown tired of London (R.I.P). Over to you, David:

“Welcome back, boys and girls. Here's a nasty little man named Richard dissing our town...

‘I do not at all like that city. All sorts of men crowd together there from every country under the heavens. Each race brings its own vices and its own customs to the city. No one lives in it without falling into some sort of crimes. Every quarter of it abounds in grave obscenities...Whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in any part of the world, you will find in that one city. Do not associate with the crowds of pimps; do not mingle with the throngs in the eating-houses; avoid dice and gambling, the theatre and the tavern. You will meet with more braggarts there than in all France; the number of parasites is infinite. Acrobats, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortioners, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons: all this tribe fill all the houses. Therefore, if you do not want to dwell with evil doers, do not live in London.’

Thanks Richard of Devizes. No prizes for guessing that Rorty Richard was from parts elsewhere; Winchester to be exact; he was a monk at St. Swithin's house there. Late 12th century.”

Go on one of David’s walks and ask him all about LONDON STORIES, the London Walks book. Find him in Kensington, Hampstead or on the banks of the Thames.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The London Walks Reading List No.5

L.W’s resident Sherlock Holmes ace Richard IV points novices in the direction of his five favourite tales. Beginners begin here: the game’s afoot.

Old hands go back and take a stroll down memory lane.

And then meet Richard IV (or Corinna) at Embankment Station every Friday at 2.00p.m to follow In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes.

Here’s Richard IV:

“I thought I'd pick five Holmes stories, one from each of the collections, each of which has a strong London connection.

1. The Blue Carbuncle
The perfect seasonal tale, with Covent Garden, Bow Street, the British Museum and a missing jewel.

2. The Greek Interpreter
The clubland of St James's, the lodgings of Sherlock's brilliant brother, and a kidnapping and murder plot.

3. The Second Stain
Murder in Westminster and visit from the Prime Minister as a vital letter goes missing.

4. The Dying Detective
From the East End docks to ‘something nutritious’ at Simpson's in the Strand as Holmes and Watson trap a ruthless poisoner.

5. The Illustrious Client
An attack on Holmes in Regent Street, a trip to Charing Cross Hospital, and research for Watson at the London Library on the trail of the lethal Baron Gruner.”


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

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Monday, 26 January 2009

The Sunday Gallimaufry. On Monday.

The Sunday Gallimaufry is a little late this week as L.W Blog was busy yesterday celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns (above), Britain’s greatest writer of all time (yup, that’s fightin’ talk! Complaints, arguments and death threats should be sent to Why not pay your own tribute this week at Sir John Steel’s bronze statue of “yer other National Bard” in Embankment Gardens on your way to Embankment Tube to meet the Somewhere Else, The National Gallery Tour, Eccentric London, Sherlock Holmes, Blood Curdling London, Subterranean London, Westminster at War, Harry Potter or the Aparitions, Alleyways & Ale walks.

The 2009 SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE season (see London Links below, right) was announced recently, and is set to feature Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Public booking opens on 14th February. (See the Globe in all its glory on the Along the Thames Pub Walk.)

At the National Portrait Gallery (see London Links below, right) on Thursday 19th February there’s ALLAN GINSBERG: A TRIBUTE TO A GREAT AMERICAN BEAT POET. London Walks own exploration of the Beat Generation, in this the 40th Anniversary year of the death of Jack Kerouac, takes the shape of Adam’s forthcoming Beat London: Kerouac, Ginsberg & Dylan walk.

On the goggle box this week, the excellent series on the legendary London thoroughfare that became a byword for elegance and style, Savile Row (BBC4) enjoys a re-run. (See London Links below, right.) For news of an altogether more Swinging Savile Row, see the big Beatles story on the front page at The Mothership,

And to close… Blog Follower Caroline emailed this pic (below) of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from a group booking that took place on an icy January day a few weeks back.

L.W Blog loves particularly the blue of the chill East End sky at dusk. Thanks, Caroline. Keep ‘em coming (email to
If you want to see the East End for yourself, Harry’s The Man. His walk goes from Whitechapel tube every Sunday at 2.00p.m.


Friday, 23 January 2009

Start the Week

Monday, dreary Monday. And, to top it all, as Angela says:

“It's January and the dingiest part of the winter. Not even the snowdrops have broken cover yet to give us that tiny shimmer of spring.”

Not our usual, sunny, upbeat, London Walks Blog fayre, I’ll grant you.

“But,” Angela continues, “there is magic to be had on, of all things, a Monday morning.”

Phew. That was all getting a bit gloomy, Ange. Do carry on:

“The magic is to be found in the The Old Palace Quarter. For a start, we actually disappear down a hole – in pursuit of Alice's white rabbit perhaps? And while we don't actually emerge in Wonderland, nevertheless there is something of a fairytale here. There is a little arcade of shops which could have come straight out a Harry Potter, with exotic, silken waistcoats, Russian memorabilia, lead toy soldiers and the finest of the fine bone china. Most magical of all there are ice-palaces and ice- mountains and ice- sculptures in the kingdom of the Snow Queen created in a shop window, the story of Kay and Gerda almost brought to life and so spectacular it turns us all into five year olds again! And then, to get our breath back we have a few minutes in one of Christopher Wren's prettiest churches, and sometimes, but only sometimes, we have a treat when musicians are rehearsing for a lunchtime concert in the church. A couple of weeks ago a pianist was playing a Chopin Etude and that was truly magical!”

(Angela’s Old Palace Quarter chapter is a highlight of the forthcoming LONDON STORIES, the London Walks book (pictured), published on 5th February.)


Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Knightsbridge: King of Walks

Kings and Queens of England: a History Lesson Wrapped in a Pub Walk. Who better to deliver the lecture than Richard III? Here he is:

“The Bunch of Grapes pub is a riot of pre-Victorian snob screens, pillars with gilded capitals, fabulous wood carvings and great beer. It was built when Silly Billy was on the throne and if you can remember Silly Billy (King William IV 1830 - 1837) you can remember all you need to know about the English monarchs in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries because he's the guy stuck in between the Georgian and Victorian periods. It goes like this: George, George, George, George, Silly Billy, Victoria and you're into the twentieth century. Why did they call him Silly Billy? You'll have to join me on the Knightsbridge Pubs walk this Friday at 7pm South Kensington tube.”

(In Richard III’s chapter of LONDON STORIES, the London Walks book entitled A Right Royal Route, he goes in search of The Strand of yore.)


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

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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

London Walks A–Z

B is for…

…BRIXTON Underground station, the nearest tube to the shops on Stockwell Road that feature in the 60’s film BLOW-UP. The central character in that film was modelled on photographer and East Ender David BAILEY. At one point in the movie (English dialogue by Edward BOND), there is a Swinging London club scene with The Yardbirds playing live. Their lead guitarist? Jeff BECK.

(Where did we pinch our “B” [pictured]? Keep an eagle eye out on the Eccentric London Walk and you’ll find it on the enamel sign outside Gordon’s Wine Bar.)


Monday, 19 January 2009

We Want Some Answers…

The London Walks Picture Quiz (click HERE for a reminder) was set by Nick to entertain – by which I mean confound, upset and annoy – the London Walks guides at our annual Christmas Party. The theme was Steps & Stairs and here are the answers…

1. The Scoop, City Hall SE1
2. The Globe Theatre, Bankside SE1
3. The Coliseum Theatre, St Martin’s Lane WC2
4. Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street EC4
5. “Nancy’s Steps”, London Bridge SE1

(Quiz setter Nick has written the Greenwich chapter of the London Stories the London walks book, published 5th February.)


Saturday, 17 January 2009

The LW Blog Sunday Gallimaufry…

… in which, gentle reader, a Blog Follower shares an ominous picture; we look ahead to the rest of January on LW Blog; you are introduced to Pete Scully, illustrator of the forthcoming London Walks Book; you are invited to LISTEN IN on a chapter from said book; and a LAST CHANCE is found to take a tilt at the fiendish quiz, as set by Nick (answers posted Monday).

• Blog Follower Phil of South London sends us a rather unusual view of the City (posted below) taken from Camberwell New Cemetery. “I took it last summer,” he offers, before adding, “Looking at it now, I can’t help thinking that the juxtaposition of the graves and the City skyline might have been some kind of premonition.”

Gulp! Thanks, Phil. (If weird premonitions and the City are your thing, catch up with the Ghosts of the Old City walk.)

• Next month London Walks London Stories (the long-awaited LW book) is published. The beautiful line drawings that adorn both its 23 chapters and the famous London Walks white leaflet are the work of PETE SCULLY. Resident in the U.S, he’s a Londoner-in-exile and former tour guide. Check out his work HERE and the London Walks book HERE.

• The aforementioned book (pictured below) comes out on 5th February. Want a sneak preview? CLICK HERE to listen to an excerpt.

• Coming later this month on LW Blog… Richard IV, the LW Sherlock Holmes expert, lists his top five Conan Doyle yarns… LW Blog resident astrologer Sir St John Featherstonehaugh on Aquarius London… and it’s that ol’ devil called Nick again, this time on the mad, mad, mad, mad world of the Old Knightsbridge Village Pub Walk.

• In the meantime, here’s the last chance to try Nick’s quiz. Can you identify the five London locations pictured? CLICK HERE for the quiz and come back on Monday for the answers.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Picturesque Primrose Hill Pub Walk

CLAIMER: We feel 97.2 percent certain that the NEW WALK – The Picturesque Primrose Hill Pub Walk – won’t end up in scenes of mob violence such as those depicted above. But the thing is: we can’t guarantee that it won’t. In the company of Ed Glinert, anything is possible.

Ed says: “The chicest, trendiest, most Bohemian village in London is home to Ewan McGregor, Jamie Oliver, Jude Law, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Sophie Ellis Bextor… Primrose Hill? It’s more like Beverley Hills!

Who knows, rather than simply having a tipple in one of our sparkling pubs, we might bump into Jamie Oliver himself, armed with a handful of herbs ready to sprinkle over a stuffed chicken. More likely we’ll bump into a bloke who’s been a member of the MCC for 80 years and remembers Kingsley Amis drinking a bottle of whisky a day when he lived at 194 Regent’s Park Road in a ménage with his former wife and her new husband.

We probably won’t, however, find anyone who remembers how Primrose Hill, one of the highest locations in London as well as one of the most desirable, was where the Popish Plot began in 1678 (see picture) as London quaked in fear of religious revolution. I’ll fill you in on that. And we certainly won’t find anyone who remembers the Martians landing on the hill, about to seize control of London, as that happened only in the pages of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds. Although some swear they really did see it happen. But they’re the ones who were probably drinking too much with Kingsley Amis.

See you on Saturday outside Chalk Farm tube at 7.15pm, the latest!”

(Ed contributes a chapter to the forthcoming London Walks book. Click HERE for more details.)


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

My Favourite London Walk No. 5

Only five into the “My Favourite…” series and it’s already a second appearance for Legal & Illegal London.

Angela is at the helm this Friday (16th January) at 2.00p.m (meet at Holborn Station) and this is why you should tag along with her:

“We may be plunged into the grey gloom of a misty, frosty January with the jollifications of the New Year a mere wisp of memory, but come with me and lift the spirits in the collegiate serenity of the Inns of Court. This is where the barristers [wigs, gowns] hang out. It's a magical, mystery tour, because although they're bounded by typically seething London streets, secreted away are the flowerbedded acres of the Inns, so quiet one feels one should walk through on tiptoe. And although of course the lawyers are now all hunched up now behind computers in their chambers [offices] it's all so Dickensian one wouldn't be surprised to catch one sharpening his quill pen! And for good measure when we finish not only can you go into an actual High Court and see for yourselves the drama of a courtroom, but for those who need sustenance of a different kind you can go and have scones and jam in an old bank!”

(Angela also contributes a chapter – not to mention the funniest writer biog ever – to the forthcoming London Walks book. Click HERE for more details.)


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

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Anarchy In The UK

“Consider the tale,” asks Ed, “of Russian anarchist Wilfred Michael Voynich.”

How’s that for an offer you can’t refuse? Ed goes on…

“In the 1880s he escaped his gloomy Siberian prison cell – the window of which faced the gallows – and made his way to England. He was penniless, hungry and spoke no English. But what the hell? He was now in the same city as his comrades!

Most of the leading east European anarchists had come to London where they could agitate with far more freedom than on the continent. In London, Voynich sought the anarchist leader Stepniak. How could he do that in a city of five million? His solution was inspired. Voynich scoured the East End, stopping passers-by and thrusting a piece of paper into their faces on which was scrawled Stepniak’s name… in Russian. It didn’t take long before a Jewish student knew exactly what this dishevelled creature wanted and took him to meet the great man.

Voynich eventually became a great success, but not at anarchism. He acquired a proper job, working as an antiquarian bookseller. And 1912, in a secluded Jesuit monastery in Italy, he found a remarkable mediaeval document illustrated with fantastic decorations, strange plants and astronomical drawings written in a hitherto unknown language.

No scholar could explain its contents. The finest cryptographic minds are still baffled by what is now known as the Voynich Manuscript. The British government once even put its entire MI8 department onto the task of unravelling the esoteric incunabula, to no avail, an ironic twist given that the secret services had been engaged in watching Voynich’s political activities only a few decades previously.

Yes, it’s that kind of London Walk. From Voynich and Stepniak, we’ll also be discussing the brightest stars in the revolutionary firmament: Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and even Hitler. All have raged and raved, preached, practiced and propagandised in this part of London.

Viva la Walks revolution!”

Ed’s Anarchy in the UK walk meets at Goodge Street Station at 10.45a.m. this Saturday 17th January.

(Ed also contributes to the forthcoming London Walks book. Click HERE for more details.)


Saturday, 10 January 2009

A Fiendish Quiz

Each Christmas the London Walks guides get together to celebrate the season at a central London location. Food is taken. Wine is quaffed. Then goodwill to all men is thrown out of the window as they set down to the serious business of trying to win the annual London Walks Quiz.

The questions are set by the dapper Nick, oft to be seen cutting through the hidden byways of SW1 leading the Old Knightsbridge Village Pub Walk, enlightening walkers down Greenwich way and putting the willies up God-fearing souls on Haunted London. (He was also the fella pictured on the LW Blog opening the fizz at the Albert Hall when London Walks won the Gold Medal at the Visit London Awards 2008. Click here for a reminder.)

This year, his fiendish test took the form of a picture quiz on the theme of Steps. The first five pictures appear above. Where in London could they be? Any guesses? Pop back for the answers next week.

A prize? How about this: if you get all five correct, you can take the day off work on Monday. Just call your boss and tell her/him that the London Walks Blog said it was okay.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The London Walks Reading List No.4

The Crimson Petal and the White
by Michael Faber (2002)

“Michel Faber has produced the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely.” Thus opened The Guardian’s review for the acclaimed 2002 novel The Crimson Petal and the White. “Where once the Victorian novel was lace-like with decorous gaps and tactful silences, now it is packed hard with crude fact and dirty detail… a supremely literary novel.” The following passage struck London Walks guide Richard III over Christmas. (No lounging about full of pud in front of Her Maj’s speech then falling asleep during The Great Escape for the London Walks guide. No siree. Just like the Windmill Theatre, they never close.) Over to Richard III:

“This exquisite piece of writing right at the end of The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber sums up the London by Gaslight walk perfectly:
‘Night has fallen over St. Giles, over London, over England, over a fair fraction of the world. Lamp-lighters are roaming the streets, solemnly igniting, like an army of Catholic worshippers, innumerable votive candles fifteen feet in height. It's a magical sight, for anyone looking down on it from above, which, sadly, no one is.
Yes, night has fallen, and only those creatures who are of no consequence are still working. Chop-houses are coming to life, serving ox cheeks and potatoes to slop-shop drudges. Taverns, ale-houses and gin palaces are humming with custom…’

This is a wonderful book set in Victorian London which I have read over Christmas. Join me in the taverns, meeting on Saturday, 7.15pm at Embankment station.”

Richard III guides the London by Gaslight Pub Walk this Saturday 10th January.

(The Crimson Petal and the White is published by Canongate at £8.99)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Give me excess of it…

Yes, yes, we know you’re counting calories at the foot of the mountain that is your New Year diet. But here’s the thing: you can trade off the delicious tastings on Ann’s upcoming Foodies London extravaganza (this Saturday!) against the cardiovascular exercise gained on the walk itself. Pure genius. And that’s not to mention the high fibre brainfood and free range insider knowledge to be found on the list of ingredients. Over to Ann:

“Looking back on the great events of 2008, my vote for the best meal goes to the spread put on for President Sarkozy – and Carla (remember her?) – when they visited the City of London in March. They ate:

Honey Roasted Quail
Fresh beetroot, lentils, cranberry and walnut oil dressing
Timbale of Scallop and Seatrout
Pomodore tomatoes and tarragon butter sauce
Tournedos of British Beef
Crowned with a globe artichoke souffle, Dauphinoise potatoes
Trio of British Classics -
Marmalade Creme Brulee with chocolate florentine and rumtompf fruit brochette
Poor Knights of Windsor
with red fruits
Treacle Tart
with Devon cream custard

And for the best foodie info of 2009, join my walk on January 10, 10.00a.m. at Monument tube, Fish St Hill exit. But I'm sorry I won't be providing marmalade creme brulee.”


Monday, 5 January 2009

London Walks Zodiac: Capricorn

Each month the London Walks Astrologer, the esteemed St John Featherstonehaugh (pictured), reads London’s astrological chart. This month:

December 22nd – January 21st
SYMBOL: The goat (pictured below)

Cambridge spy Kim Philby – 1st January 1912.
Musician David Bowie – 8th January 1947.
The British Museum – 15th January 1759.
Elizabeth I crowned at Westminster Abbey 13th January 1559.
First English parliament sits at the Palace of Westminster 20th January 1265.
The chimes of Big Ben are broadcast by the BBC for the first time, Hogmanay 1923.

Later this month, LW Blog will ply St John Featherstonehaugh with a sufficient amount of barley wine to loosen his thoughts on Aquarius London

(Where did we find our Capricorn goat pictured above? Hanging outside the Goat Tavern, 66 Battersea Rise SW11, that's where.)