This post first appeared in October 2014…
Colourful isn’t it?
It’s my Peace tie.
My new Peace tie. Peace’s old tie.
And the story? It’s the tiniest of heart-warming London stories. And, for that matter, South African stories.
But first a bit of context, a bit of back story.
Matters sartorial. Well, London Walks matters sartorial.
Quite a few London Walks guides have sartorial “signatures”. Fedra’s brilliant sweaters; Adam’s “man in black” look; Richard’s straight out of the pages of GQ look topped to the north with that famous red cap; Katy’s knee length, lace-up boots; Delianne’s red coat and boots, ruby nails and Goth style; Mary’s bright red coat; well, you get the idea.
And me, David? Well, it’s an armada of hats and caps and an armoury of frankly amazing stage props aka show-stopping walking sticks and a dazzle of outrageous ties.
So there I am, Thursday last, on Duncannon Street, over the way from St Martin in the Fields. Walking past South Africa House. And there are these three nattily attired South African chaps chatting away. And one of them is wearing the most brilliant tie I’ve ever clapped eyes on.
In my tracks stopped. Blurting: “do you mind if I ask where you got that wonderful tie?”
Coming back at me, a great rich rumble of a voice: “in South Africa.”
Oh. Stopped cold. But maybe there was just a wistful of something – of disappointment? – across the veldt of my face.
Because he said, “Come back on Monday morning, step inside there, I’ll have it ready for you. Ask the Commissionaire for me. My name is Peace.”
And the stopped cold – the wistful of whatever it was – turned into something else. Because Peace beamed and gave a great huggy bear of a laugh.
And I wasn’t sure. But I wasn’t going to miss that Monday morning appointment. And entre nous, I was pretty sure.
So pitched up Monday morning. Had a word with the very pretty girl behind the desk. She said, “I’ll give Peace a ring.”
And there he was. With “my” tie wrapped up. He said, “Mr. Tucker, you are an honest man. You said you’d come by on Monday morning. It’s Monday morning. And here you are. Please think of South Africa when you wear it”
I mean do London glows – London vignettes – come any better than those two “moment beads” in Trafalgar Square?
So here’s to you, Peace. To your warmth and generosity and great good humour.
And for sure, to your country. To South Africa.
South Africa. Where there are more gardens than high-rise buildings.
South Africa. Where fresh beautiful flowers are sold on every corner and you can send a love letter in beads.
South Africa. Where you have brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles to whom you have no relation.
South Africa. Where the biggest city in the country is not just a city. It’s a rainforest.
South Africa. Where you can drop in unannounced (as I did). And still be welcome (as I was).
South Africa. Where you can take a peek through God’s window.
South Africa. Where it’s spring now and Jacaranda blossoms pop under your feet in the evening.
South Africa. Where there’s no such thing as a foreigner.
South Africa. Where the smallest gesture can have a huge ripple effect.
South Africa. Where you can lie down in the cradle of Humankind.
South Africa. Whose people are as beautiful as they are friendly.
Yes, here’s to you Peace. And to your country. I’ll wear the tie with more than pride.
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.