Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Few Words About #London Walks Guides

London Walks is renowned for its guides.

And its guides’ eccentricities.

I’m thinking of Charles – “the one true genius the BBC ever produced” – being the “cause” of the first use of the “f-word” bomb in British broadcasting.

And of Corinna swimming – at 7.45 am every morning – 365 days a year – in that Hampstead pond.

And of Richard Walker paddling a canoe across the Pacific ocean.

And of the late, lamented, gap-toothed June looking like – and cursing like – Chaucer’s the Wife of Bath.

And of Richard selling his three-pool mansion in Cape Town, out of the blue, over lunch, at a moment’s notice – “because he loved the house and he said he’d like to buy it and would I take [private information here] for it and I thought, yeah, sure, why not?”

And of David’s life trajectory ranging from riding freight trains across the Midwest for a couple of years to an invitation to Buckingham Palace.

And of Andy being a professional footballer.

And of Adam being a professional standard cartoonist (as a hobby) and taking one day a month to go on marathon (20 mile) walks across London.

And of Andy R. being held at gunpoint in Haiti.

And of Stephanie being an elephant tamer.

Well, you get the idea.

And that’s all by way of a preamble. That’s all by way of getting to Graham.

London Walks’ longest serving guide. He went right back to Ozzie Keith, who founded the company in the mid-60s. Keith hired Graham. Graham’s the only London Walks guide who knew Keith.

Graham wanted to make it to 40 years as a London Walks guide. He didn’t make it. Missed it by a month.

People have been asking about him. People who walked with him man and boy. Year after year. Walked with him – and loved his walks. Nobody knew the City of London better than Graham. He was, after all, a City of London banker for 40 years.

Anyway, the good news is Graham is hale and hearty. He was taken very ill a couple of years ago. Had to pack it in. We were all hugely worried. He had a very serious illness. But he’s also got 1) the constitution of a horse; 2) a life force second to none; 3) a very fine team of doctors; and 4) (and I’m not using the term loosely, lightly or irresponsibly) a miracle cure, a new drug.

And it’s worked.

His life is exactly what it’s been since 1990 – except that he’s not guiding anymore. He comes up to central London – he lives in south London – every day. He dines extremely well, lunch and dinner. He takes in shows. Sees his great pal (and fellow Scot) Douglas. Keeps in touch with us. Goes to musicals. Basically, enjoys life.

And Graham’s eccentricity? And no, I’m not talking about his holding up his umbrella and a rolled up newspaper to make the sign of the cross – you know, ward off evil – every time he walked past his old bank.

I am talking about his habit – otherwise unknown to the 20th century, he was the last practitioner and he was still doing it, regularly, well into the 70s – of waiting outside various London stage doors* with a bunch of flowers.

London Walks guides. No need to say anymore than those three words.

*Just one stage door a night, thank goodness. Moderation – he’s a great believer in it, is Graham.

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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 www.walks.com.

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