“Right,” said David, London Walks’ Pen and web supremo,”most memorable London Walks moment, coupla hundred words, your time starts… now!”
My most memorable moment used to be the time when an 18 year-old, six-foot-seven Dutch boy fainted during my description of the remains of Polly Nicholls on the Jack the Ripper walk. Down like a plumber’s bag he went, as his teacher rolled her eyes and said, “That boy has too much imagination for his own good.”
That moment, however, was easily surpassed a couple of weeks ago. Standing outside Whitechapel Underground, I was approached by a man in a state of high excitement. Not, it has to be said, an unusual occurrence down Whitechapel way. “I need a favour,” he announced.“ Again, just another day in the East End. "A really, REALLY, big, HUGE favour. Mate, you gotta help me.”
While he looked like a respectable enough bloke, stories from the Unknown East End walk that lay ahead flooded my imagination. Did he want me to divert the walk to create a distraction while his gang performed a jewellery heist a la the Sidney Street anarchists? Elbowing my better judgement aside, I blurted out,”Sure. How can I be of help?”
I’m glad I did.
He handed me a scrap of paper with his girlfriend’s name on it and said: “At the end of the walk, can you call out her name and ask her to step forward.” Reaching into his coat he pulled out a ring box and levered it open with his thumb. “I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
How he contained himself, through two hours of immigration, extortion, rhyming slang, Captain Cook, the Krays, Edith Cavell, Joseph Stalin and the dear old Queen Mum, I don’t know. But it did give me time to compose a big build up for our London Walks Romantic and his once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Standing before the Martyr’s Monument in Altab Ali Park, on the site of the bombed-out St Mary Matfelon church – the old White Chapel itself – I gave him a drum roll:
“It’s always a privilege to recount the tales of what this great city has seen. But never have I had the pleasure of starting a story that has yet to happen… Until now. Will Emma step forward please.”
Bang on cue she flushed crimson as our hero assumed centre stage and, with a confidence tempered with just the right amount of embarrassment, announced,”Right. I won’t muck about. Emma…” And with this he brandished the ring with a chivalrous flourish. "Will you marry me?”
What can top the first London Walks wedding, I thought, as I struck out west with an extra spring in my step. Only one thing,of course: the birth of the first London Walks baby. As a precaution, I’m packing a flask of boiling water and a clean towel along with my white leaflets. You never know.
Thus spake Adam
. (It's me, David, putting my oar in now.) Nothing to add except this: Adam guides as well as he writes. And this: wish I could get him to write the whole leaflet - and the website!