Tuesday, 28 February 2017

#London Nightly #Photoblog 28:02:17: Au Revoir

It's around midnight in London… 

The Nightly London Photo Blog takes one last look at our city before lights out.

This slot is dedicated to everyone who joined us on a London Walks tour today, or who read The Daily Constitutional, or who told a friend to join us. Sleep well, we'll see you out there soon!

And this, the DC editor's tired (but happy) feet at waiting for a Northern Line train at the end of the day, signifies the end of February's Nightly London Photoblog series. Thanks for following.

The London Nightly Photoblog will return in August 2017

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.

From The Archive: Tributes To Our Late Colleagues Jean & Graham

DC Editor Adam writes…

In December 2016 I posted the The Daily Constitutional's blog post number 5,000.

To mark the occasion I've been digging in the archive and over February 2017 I'll be reblogging The DC's "Greatest Hits" – my 50 favourite posts. 

In addition I'll be sharing my 50 favourite London photos to have appeared here since October 2008. 

I hope you enjoy them

Feb 2017

From the archive today, TWO tributes to our much-missed London Walks colleagues Jean and Graham.

Jean passed away in 2012…

Jean with the Lord Mayor of London

David leads the tributes…

In today's Guardian the wonderful Suzanne Moore talks about seeing "her youngest son leave school, where classmates announced their plans: 'Many wanted to be actors or footballers. But I liked the little boy who just wanted to live in a mansion with his best friend.'"

This "little boy" (David) just wants to live in - and guide in - the mansion called London. Guide in it with his London Walks colleagues and friends.

And there, just like that, is one of my soft spots. The collegiality of London Walks. And, yeah, sure, everybody's busy - on the go all the time - there's sometimes some chafing, there's this season's fraying (compliments of the weather and the 2012 juggernaut) - etc.... but for all that "this old spot is a bloody good place to be." And by "this old spot" I mean London AND London Walks. And the collegiality of London Walks is an important strand of the weave.

And so we come to the point: nobody was more "collegial" than Jean.

Not only did she know London better than anyone else, she was always so helpful, so willing to share those boundless (they seemed to me) riches she'd unearthed and stored in that wonderful mind of hers. (So quintessentially a bred-and-born, full-on Londoner's mind. I often think of her unswerving, if slightly wistful apothegm about married life taking her "out" to Hertfordshire, "I sold my birthright for a mess of pottage." Not entirely fair to Hertfordshire, but that was Jean, that was how she felt about London, about her city, about where she belonged. Decades she lived up in Hertfordshire, but always up there she was Ruth [noun as well as proper noun], "amid the alien corn". She'd give me a hug for that line - because she loved Keats. She wasn't just a Dickens girl.)

With Jean's passing the London Walks repertory has just decreased by a shocking number of walks, of titles. 10-15 percent, I should think. And that's really a lot when you bear in mind that the full London Walks Repertory runs to some 550 walks. So 60-75 walks, something like that - that's how many Jean created over the getting-on-for-a-quarter-of-a-century that she guided for London Walks.

But maybe they won't be lost. Anybody remember the film Fahreheit 451? Set in some ghastly future where books have been banned. And a small group of "out-laws", of non-compliers, have taken it upon themselves to memorise, each of them, one great book apiece. So Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Cervantes and Dickens and Joyce, etc. aren't lost. Barbarism isn't able to put out the flame.

Well, that's what we're hoping will happen with Jean's walks. That each London Walks guide will "adopt" one of the orphans. Keep it alive - with the not inconsiderable help from Jean's notes. The idea was put to her a few weeks before she died and she was thrilled with it. Very much wanted it to happen. We as guides now have to make it happen. And what's not to like about it...

Jean will be walking with us. Walking in her beloved London...   

Alan writes…

Where do you begin with Jean? When I first began with London Walks the first guide I ever went with was Jean ‘In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes’. The lesson was well learned. To be a good guide you must have a thorough knowledge and love of subject matter and the ability to impart it with enthusiasm and humour. If you’re not enjoying it don’t be surprised if the walkers aren’t.

Jean could quote entire passages of the books verbatim! She could deliver a ‘The quality of mercy” and make it sound like you’d never heard it before. These things are what made her a GREAT guide.

Jean raised the bar. In an age of ‘Google Guides’ she gave you the well researched facts. If anyone shouted then—and they did—‘Don’t believe a word they say’ you could believe every word SHE said. It was flawless. Jean set the standard! We all stumble behind. And the rate at which Jean could move so would Usain Bolt!

No walker ever came with me who had been with her without mentioning the fact and with a smile and a twinkle in the eye that made you realise just how admired she was.

We are all the poorer now but richer for having the privilege of having known and learned from her.

God bless Jean and thank you.

Alison writes…

Jean was an inspiration to all guides. I have never met anyone so knowledgeable about so many subjects and who was always so prepared to pass on her stories or share in her considerable research. The last time I saw her we discussed "The Mystery of Edwin Drood "at length and she offered a completely plausible ending to the book. It was one I had never even considered before yet now I am sure she was right.

It is not only her family, friends and guides who will miss her but also, I am sure, the streets of London and Rochester which will miss her sure footsteps and the whisper of her Victorian skirts as she glided through them. It was as if she was part of them and they belonged together.

There are not enough statues to women in London and I would love to see Jean in her Victorian bonnet joining some of the literary greats in the City in perpetuity.

She was a remarkable woman!

Sue adds…

It was my good fortune to be asked to learn one or two of Jean's walks many years ago when I first joined London Walks.  I soon learned that she set the bar very high and you'd better not come in under it. All her walks were packed with entertaining information and thoroughly researched. This was the benchmark.  She was a superb guide and extremely generous with both her time and material.  All her walks wove many strands into the story and anyone lucky to enjoy one of her performances would come away enriched and rather in awe of her.

Last word to David…

Malcolm, near the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth, describes how "execution was done on Cawdor."* Though of course what the lines really impart is the insouciance, the unflinching courage with which Cawdor stepped off the edge into eternity.          

                 Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it. He died
As one that had been studied in his death
To throw away the dearest thing he owed
As ’twere a careless trifle.

Ok, that marker down, let's regroup for a second.

We've lost three friends, three great ladies, three marvellous guides in the last few years.

June. And Mary Frost. And now Jean.

And the Cawdor connection? Well, you can certainly draw a line through - not under - the first five words. Because pretty much everything in June's and Mary's and Jean's lives "became them". They were generous, fun, bright, resourceful, hard working. They were good gals. Good news. Life enhancers.

But there's a qualified "yes" to the Cawdor quote.

I'm just going to say it. You'll see it as soon as I do.

Starting with June. Gone now, how long? But certainly not forgotten. (Thinking about guiding generally it's often occurred to me that we're not dissimilar to that Scott character after whom his novel Old Mortality is named - the old boy who's taken it upon himself, hammer and chisel at the ready, to keep the names on the gravestones from fading into oblivion. As guides we chisel away at the past, keep the present from encrusting it, burying it. And that's sort of what's going on here - that's why June and Mary are here, on this page, as well as Jean.)

But, yes, starting with June. June. Gap-toothed, bawdy June. London Walks' very own Wife of Bath.

June and Jean were especially close. Jean wrote the chapter on Dickens in London Stories. The end of her author "bio" reads "Jean's chapter is dedicated to the memory of June Street, a great guide and a good friend."

June died in Bali. Was cremated on the beach there. Very June, that. Very London Walks. And by that I mean characterful. Cawdoresque. You all - addressing London Walks guides specifically here - may be a bunch of bonhomous Brits extending the hand of welcome to the strangers in your midst. But that isn't the half of it. The main thing is you're a bit and more than a bit of a character. You have to be to do this job. If personalities had plumage London Walks' guides' would be instantly spottable.

June's flared up on that beach in Bali. As it does in our memories, most every day. And I daresay in the memories, from time to time, of the thousands of walkers to whom she opened up London.

And Mary. Big hearted Mary. Forever late Mary. I of course didn't know at the time that the incident I'm going to recount was actually Mary's farewell to me. And that in the form it took - she was gifting me. Many of you already know this story. It was a job down in Docklands. They'd laid down the law to me: "three guides, one for each coach, and they absolutely must be on time. We have to be at the Tower by 6.15 pm."

Judy and I were on time.

Not Mary though.

I was fuming. When she did finally come rushing up, well, surely she read my face and - well, you couldn't make this stuff up. "Oh, oh, oh," she said, "I left in plenty of time but there were two train crashes and a fire on the line."

First thing that came into her mind. Not even remotely "crafted". It was panic, not thought. Who knows, there may have been a delay. But whatever it was that was going to "unfault" her - she stampeded it, "steroided" it. Spectacularly. Character-fully.

And in the event, it was okay. We got them to the Tower on time.

Now Jean. Gearing up to write this I turned to Gray's great classic poem, Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard. And sure enough, there it was. For Jean, London and its history was a "living lyre". A "living lyre" that she always could "wake to ecstasy" in the minds of her walkers. And indeed in the minds of her friends and fellow guides.

It wouldn't be right for Jean, the consummate London, to lie in a country church-yard. She's going to be here in London. Just up the road from us.

When I mapped out the Summer 2012 London Walks programme Jean asked to do a new walk, a West Hampstead walk. A West Hampstead walk the centrepiece of which would be a very good look at the cemetery up here.

Then she was, as you all know, taken very ill, very suddenly. So Mary (Chilton-Tucker) stepped in and will do that walk on the appointed day next month.

The last time Mary talked to Jean - just a day or two before she died - the subject of the walk came up.

Jean said, cheerfully, "I'll be there when you do it."

*Cawdor is the Thane of Cawdor, the traitor whose rebellion mainlines us into the world of 11th-century Scotland as imagined and dramatised by WS.

Then in July 2015, we lost Graham. David wrote…

David Tucker writes...

ave atque vale

He was my friend. And colleague.

Graham died a few days ago.

A lot of you – London Walkers who are true blue London Walkers, who go back, in some cases way back, a long way with London Walks – will remember him. You went on his walks. You enjoyed themyou liked him.

Who wouldn’t?

Nothing but good to say about Graham. He had no “side” to him. Out of that great Santa’s bag of goodness that was his, I’ll pick six gifts. There are so many more, but six will do. Graham would have been embarrassed – no, horrified – if I’d emptied out even half the contents. Let alone the whole shebang.

1. Graham was so brave. He will have been in considerable pain that last year, attacked and invaded by that unspeakable. Never complained. Was always cheerful. Maybe his only regret – this by way of getting it said that Graham did it his way – and boy did he ever succeed – his only regret was that he didn’t quite make it to the 40 year mark as a London Walks guide. Came so close, though.

2. And that’s by way of saying Graham was our last link with Keith Baverstock, who founded London Walks – the oldest urban walking tour company in the world – half a century ago. Keith hired Graham. Graham told – it’s these little things, tense shifts, for example, that do me, that bring it on, that bring on the tell-tale catch in the throat that accompanies my now having to write told here when my every instinct is to write tells – Graham told great stories about Keith and those early days.

3. Graham was good company. He was a recovering City of London banker. And, yes, those two go together. He hated that bank. He’d got over the wall but the memory was evergreen. Whenever he went by it, priest-like, he’d do the sign of the cross. Whatever it took to ward off the evil one.

4. Graham was maybe London’s last stage door Johnny. He loved musicals. Loved dancers, loved beautiful young women. Would go to the same show over and over again. Worth mentioning here that fetching older women – some of them walkers – were always setting their caps at him. “You’re coming home with me [to South Carolina]” in one famous incident. And the corollary of that strand of his life: he was a master at taking evasive actions that bruised no egos – a consummate practitioner of that fine art.

5. Graham was a guide’s guide. You’ll hear actors talking about an actor’s actor. Graham was – oivei, that tense again – a guide’s guide in much the same vein. An actor’s actor is an actor who doesn’t go in for cheap tricks, who would be horrified at hamming it, who abhors frills and look-at-me, show-off mannerisms, whose sole object is finding the truth of his character. And holding it right there, night after night – abiding by it, honouring that truth. This line of work of ours – it is, I’m sorry to say, full of third-raters (none of them London Walks guides, I hasten to add) who go in for all kinds of “look at me”, “show off” antics. Graham was the gold standard in that matter. He wanted to be – and he was – a clear pane of glass through which his walkers looked at the buildings – and/or the history – he was showing them. It was the purest guiding I’ve ever seen. Putting to shame of course the circus mirror antics that so often pass for “guiding” in these fallen times of ours. A guide’s guide.

6. Graham was my hero. My heroes aren’t the people who get the official imprimatur – the statues and the big roles in history books. They’re “ordinary” people. The headmaster, for example, who, in a staff meeting (a million years ago) in which a “colleague” who was nine parts damaged goods was arguing for further damaging some goods in our care – a difficult student whom he wanted to be severely punished – the headmaster who said, quietly, “it’s more important to be fair than firm.” Forty years on I remember that moment. Will never forget it. A quiet, unassuming almost self-effacing man, that headmaster. He’s a hero of mine. As is Graham. Here’s the story. Not long after Mary and I took London Walks over – May 1, 1990 – one of the low-life, wideboy knock-offs pulled a stunt that was in character for him and that was designed to harm London Walks. It was low, it was bent, it was underhanded, it was contemptible. I was really angry about it. My mettle was up. I said to Graham, “two can play at that game.” Graham said, “don’t do it, Dave” [Graham was the only person who ever called me “Dave”] – you lose your integrity you’ve lost everything.”

“You lose your integrity you’ve lost everything.”

Graham was my friend. He was a colleague. He’s my hero. And, yes, why not say it – do notice the tense.

ave atque vale

On Hogmanay 2015, I added my own tribute before leading the Ghosts of the Old City walk…

Adam writes, from Paternoster Square...

Politician Willie Ross once pronounced: "The Scots are a disputatious people."

It is a line beloved of Scots everywhere (your correspondent particularly). It even features in an episode of The Simpsons - Principal Skinner describes Groundskeeper Willie as disputatious, at which Willie barks: "You just made an enemy for life!"

Superstitious, too.

Especially at Hogmanay - the Scots word for New Year.

At New Year we "first foot" our friends and neighbours - visit their homes after the stroke of midnight bearing gifts - a lump of coal for the fire and a slab of black bun (dense fruit cake) are the traditional gifts. To arrive empty handed is to bring certain misfortune upon the head of your host for the duration of the year ahead. Similarly, if the first foot - the first person to step over the threshold in the New Year - is fair-haired, then disaster will surely befall the household.

At Hogmanay the ghosts crowd around in the words of the old songs, in the tall tales and, most of all, in the "presence" of our absent friends.

A superstitious people right enough.

You can see it in our writers, too. Conan Doyle's flirtation with spiritualism is surely a good example. Burns's epic Tam O'Shanter, the poem in which the drunk and randy Tam is chased by demons when he gatecrashes their evil midnight rites at auld Alloway Kirk. Robert Louis Stevenson's "fine bogie tale" Jekyll and Hyde continues to fascinate. The devil himself is central to my all-time favourite work of Scots literature, The Private Memoirs & Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) by James Hogg.

In about an hour I'll be leading my final Ghosts of the Old a City tour of 2015. The last outing for this ghost tour before Hogmanay. I'll spend two hours spinning yarns, calling up the spirits, waving my arms like a broken helicopter and generally bulging my eyes like Fraser out of Dad's Army.

Subtle it is not. And I love every minute of it.

But as the walk starts, the absent friends will already begin to assemble for the Hogmanay revels. And first among them will be the man who taught me this walk, my late colleague, my countryman, my friend, Graham.

Graham trod this beat on a Tuesday night for many a year before passing on the mantel to this grateful guide a few years ago. He was tired of leading London Walks at nighttime but carried on his daytime tours for a good few years after this. I was always happy to have inherited this walk from Graham in such circumstances.

Graham passed away earlier this year and today on this blog, as part of our round up of 2015, I've reposted our London Walks tributes to him.

Tonight, I'm repeating my own tribute, that I first made back in July... Graham was always a dapper fellow, always wore a tie. And so tonight, in tribute, I'll break my usual habit and do likewise...

Okay, Graham's knot would NEVER have been as slovenly as mine, but I hope it's the thought that counts.

So here I go, a Scot following in the footsteps of a Scot, following a long line of Scots revelling in the telling of fine bogie tales and calling up demons in the very shadow of the church - not Alloway this time, but St Paul's - as my countrymen are wont to do. We're aye whaur extremes meet, to paraphrase the great Hugh MacDiarmid, and the meeting point of the pious and the profane is always a happy hunting ground for the Scots storyteller.

Thanks for the walk, Graham, and a Happy New Year to you. I'll be at the Old Bailey not a minute later than 8:30pm. I'm delighted to know you'll be looking on and checking your watch.

Adam Scott-Goulding

Paternoster Square, London

29th December 2015

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.

The #London of #SSGB – A Locations Map Part 2

Adam writes…

I'd like begin part two of my series on the London locations of BBC drama SS-GB with a big thank you to Len Deighton expert Edward Milward-Oliver who emailed in with a few invaluable pointers for last week's map. Thanks Edward!

Len Deighton's SS-GB continues to unfurl on BBC One Sunday nights. I'm hooked.

A quick catch up…

The Nazis are in London, the war is lost, Churchill has been executed and as the plot writhes this way and that, the viewer is given plenty of time to contemplate the question… what would YOU have done? Resist or accept?

I blogged about the series AND Len Deighton's original thriller HERE.

Last week I started a map of London locations from the series, adding a few from the original book. This week, after episode two, I've added a few more.

Kensington Gardens features in a scene where our lead character, Scotland Yard detective Douglas Archer, meets his Nazi boss Kellerman. Kellerman is out riding the imprisoned King George VI's horse…

The Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell plays the role of the Two Brewers…

… and the old Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End…


… is used as SS commander Huth's centre of operations.

I've added a few more locations from the book, too. Here's the map so far, with more locations to be added as the series progresses…

Viewers in the UK can catch up with Episode One via BBC iPlayer here: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08gfgfp/ssgb-series-1-episode-1

There's a fascinating background piece on the BBC website here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1gFzPFGN3LBfLH31vHsPPS8/alt-britain-how-ss-gb-turned-london-nazi

The best online resource for all things Len Deighton is The Deighton Dossier, find it here: www.deightondossier.net

And here's the trailer for the series…

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.

Monday, 27 February 2017

#London Nightly #Photoblog 27:02:17: #TrafalgarSquare

It's around midnight in London… 

The Nightly London Photo Blog takes one last look at our city before lights out.

This slot is dedicated to everyone who joined us on a London Walks tour today, or who read The Daily Constitutional, or who told a friend to join us. Sleep well, we'll see you out there soon!

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.