Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Streets Ahead: The London Walks Team

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


It’s one of the best things about London Walks.

One of its great strengths.

Good for us as guides. And good for our walkers. And, by definition, good for London Walks generally.

It’s good for us because it’s fun to have colleagues – friends, really – who are very bright, who are generous, and who are passionate about London. Nuts about it.

And not just fun – it helps all of us to raise our game. All the time.

We’re talking 75 very switched on people – each of whom is hoeing his or her own London furrow and, hardly less to the point, has his or her personal network of friends and contacts.

What I’m saying is, stuff gets shared. It’s stuff that’s always helpful. That in many cases is very special stuff indeed.

That’s the “collegiality” element.

Interesting word, collegiality. It’s cognate with colleague of course. And college. The Latin root is col = together and legere = to choose.

To choose. Hmmm. Let you in on a secret here: The screening we do is informal but very rigorous. And very effective. People with many years’ experience guiding know “who’s got it”. And “who doesn’t have it, who’s not London Walks caliber”.

That’s often how it happens. “Yes, we should take her on. I taught her in the Blue Badge course  and she was easily the pick of the bunch, ergo her getting the Guide of the Year Award.”

But collegiality in the sense I had in mind when I put this blank sheet of paper – so to speak – in front of me, well, here’s an example or two from just the last few days. A cherry-picked example or two – for the full whack you’d have to multiply it by 75 times or so.

But it’ll give you an idea. Make it perfectly clear why London Walks’ collegiality is a major strength. Why it’s very helpful. Why it continually raises our game.

1. Within a few hours  – indeed, by the bomb’s early light – of the “Ripper Unmasked” story bursting overhead, the distinguished crime historian and London Walks guide Donald Rumbelow had provided his London Walks Ripper walk colleagues and, by extension, their walkers with an expert appraisal of the fireworks, an expert appraisal convincingly making the case that the “bombshell” was in fact a dud.

London Walks guides – and only London Walks guides – were privy to that expert appraisal. (And believe me, “expert” is the mot juste – Donald Rumbelow is, as The Jack the Ripper A to Z puts it, “internationally recognized as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.”)

Our walkers had a direct line to it. An exclusive. Everybody else who was doing a Ripper walk was being guided by someone who was clueless about the lineaments of Donald Rumbelow’s take down of the dog and pony show. Or who was bluffing it.

2. The following – it’s a text I sent to Ann yesterday – speaks for itself. Ann guides our William Morris & Friends walk.

Hi Ann. I’m sure  you know, but on the off off off off chance, a heads up about a National Portrait Gallery lecture on William Morris (Thursday, October 16 at 7 pm) and a NPG Weekend Workshop on him on Oct. 25-26.

3. The most wonderful, and wonderfully revealing poem about mediaeval “construction workers”. It’s now in the London Walks circulatory system for guides to call on if they’re of a mind to do so. And what’s just so appealing about it – it’s not well known at all. It’s going to come as a revelation to any walkers who hear a snatch of it at the Abbey or Salisbury Cathedral or wherever. Every London Walks guide is widely read – you can’t be a good guide if you’re not. But thanks to the collegiality of London Walks there’s a “hydraulic effect” – to the power of 75 – on that “widely read” given.

Collegiality. It’s one of the best things about London Walks. Both the company and the walks.

It’s one of the reasons why “if this were a golf tournament every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

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 www.walks.com.

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