Friday, 9 January 2015

It's The Squeaky Wheel That Gets The Attention. Part 3 Of David's Post Looking Behind The Scenes At London Walks

“The One Fixed Point in a Changing Age” – Part III

David Tucker brings his look behind the scenes at London Walks post to a close.

(Scroll down for parts one and two or click HERE for part one and HERE for part two.)

OK, here it is, the sample on the slide under the microscope.  Run up here because we set a lot of store in the old adage that adversity is a good litmus test of character. Now admittedly this isn’t – as adversity goes – a very tough one. I mean, the walker is full of praise about three of the four walks she went on. But, as I said, we don’t come in for very much criticism at all and this one is a fair representation of that which we do get – very little of it, pretty vanilla and almost always very civilized and thoughtful. Which in turn has to do with the kind of people we get on our walks.

Only other thing to say is I’ve done a bit of redacting, in the interests of course of respecting the writer’s anonymity.

Set out here in correct chronological order.

The initial feedback (‘comment”) first:

Name: XXXXXXXXX    Email: XXXXXXX   Confirm Email: XXXXXXXX Telephone:      Address: US    

Comments: We took about 6 London Walks and were very pleased, especially with Rex, Andy, Tom and Ann. We were not as pleased with Richard III's tour of Greenwich. He speaks too softly and the tour did not include all the details mentioned in your brochure.    For purposes of planning our time, it would be helpful if your brochure indicated that a specific tour will take more than 2 hours, as is the case with Greenwich. It would also be helpful for the brochure to indicate when we might be likely to want to stay somewhere at the end of the tour, and would thus need to allow extra time, as with the Tower of London, the Borough Market, and Greenwich.
Sent from my iPad

Our initial reply (from the London Walks office):

Dear XXXXXX, Thank you for your email. I am glad you have enjoyed your walks with Rex, Andy, Tom and Ann. Apologies for not enjoying Richard III's greenwich so much and I will forward the very useful feedback you have given to him. Can you let us know which parts of the tour you felt were omitted?  Regarding the website we will be changing it in the next few months and I think your suggestions are very useful and I've always thought it best to give as much information as possible so our walkers can make plans for afterwards.   Thanks again and I hope you will continue to enjoy many more walks with us.    Best Wishes  Noel Curtin London Walks Ltd PO Box 1708 London NW6 4LW Tel: 020 7624 3978 Fax: 020 7625 1932

The follow-up from the walker:

Is there are place where you are astride the Meridian Line?  On 15/10/2014 21:39, "XXXXXXXXXX wrote: 
At this time my London Walks brochure is packed away. I am on a ship and have limited internet access, so I will have to go by memory. The one item I remember is that we would be shown a secret location where we could straddle the Prime Meridian without having to pay the admission fee to the Observatory. That was not included in our tour.  XXXXXXXXXX  Sent from my iPad 

Finally, Guide Richard’s response:

No we do not go to the meridian line there but I explained how you can do this by walking up the hill and going through the gate just before the entrance to the Observatory.  There is another place to find the meridian, this makes a considerably longer walk and there is no shelter and it was pouring with rain. 

I changed the walk in order to find shelter from persistent rain.  This meant we saw a number of things that are not on the leaflet and did not see some that were.

Richard Roques

XXXXXXX does not like the fact that the walk lasted too long, but her criticism requires that more things should be seen.  It is difficult to square this circle.  In my 23 years experience as a guide it is important to be flexible depending on weather conditions and size of group and changing opening times and one off exhibitions and events.  Walks are not the same every day.  That is part of the experience.  For instance, Nelson's tunic with the bullet hole was being restored for some eighteen months. We could not reflect this on the leaflet as it was not known exactly how long this would take. At the moment there is a temporary exhibition in the gallery this is displayed in that you have to pay to go in to.  The Canaletto was on temporary loan to the Louvre.  Sometimes the Queen's house is closed at short notice for a wedding.  Some guides do not go in the Queen's house at all.  When it is pouring with rain I think it is a good idea.

As an example I would cite a recent occurence on the Notting Hill walk when a gentleman said "I live here" and I said "Can we come in?" He was quite surprised and then kindly gave us a tour of his flat at the top of a mansion where the servants used to live.  This demonstrated a number of things I refer to in the walk particularly communication between the owners of the house and the male servants and the groom.  As a result I cut out a few things I normally do.  If I had not the walk would have been considerably longer.  On this same walk I go in the Norwegian youth hostel which is a spectacular building.  None of the other guides who lead this walk do this.  One of the great things about London Walks is that guides do not have a set script which they must stick to but can discover new things and react to opportunities when they arise.

Final thought. This is from me, David, not from Richard or Noel or the walker in question.

We sometimes say (a little wistfully) we give far more attention to people who really give us a good going over and in some case actively try to harm us (the writer in this instance certainly doesn’t fall into that category, I hasten to add) than we do to the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful people who write in and say how much they love London Walks. If the world were ordered reasonably the priorities would be reversed. But, hey, as the old saying goes, “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the attention”.

Next week David will be looking at "free" walks and going some way toward defining what the word free really means…

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

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