Foodies, Spies, Jeeves – This Weekend’s (January 27-28) Specials

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

Story time. History time.

Yes, London Walks.

AKA Streets Ahead.

It’s January 27th, 2024.

Quick one today.

The pin is another barmy Britain item. Last time it was potty-mouthed parrots. This time it’s Olympic-standard criminal incompetence.

The story ran last month in the York Press. It caught the eye of a spotter who passed it on to Private Eye for its Funny Old World section. That’s where I picked it up. For any visitors Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine. It’s fearless, required reading for some of us, and best of all, takes no prisoners. You’re UK-bound on a holiday, one recommendation I’d make would be to get your hands on a couple of issues of Private Eye and do some grazing. It’ll give you a feel for this country and its culture and goings-on that you won’t get anywhere. It’s uniquely British. I can’t imagine any other country in the world producing a rag like Private Eye.

Anywhere here’s the incompetent criminal item.

“A couple in a city centre flat were woken by moaning and groaning in their living room,” Leila Taleb, prosecuting, told York Crown Court, “and when they entered the room, they found Lee Kenneth Moore, 41, dangling upside down from his shoelaces. He had put some recycling bins against their wall and tried to climb in through a very small window which they had left partially open because the weather was warm. But his shoelaces had caught on the window’s locking mechanism, and he was dangling upside down, moaning and trying to free himself. When they asked him what he was doing, he said, ‘I don’t know where I am’. When the couple realised they were being burgled, they called the police.” Judge Simon Hickey later told the court ‘this is one of the most inept burglaries that has appeared before this court for quite some time. You must have done some planning for the raid, because the flat opened into a private courtyard, not the street. But you have gone about the burglary in an incredibly inept way.’ Matthew Stewart, defending, said “it was a spontaneous, impulsive decision to burgle this property. The window was open, and Moore is remorseful.’ Moore, who had 116 previous convictions, was sentenced to 876 days in jail.”

Welcome to barmy Blighty, ladies and gentlemen.

Now as for a Random. And this one’s the platonic ideal of a Random. We learn from the UK Met Office that lightning is ‘the width of your thumb and hotter than the sun.” The narrow channel of air through which it travels heats up almost instantly to as high as 30,000  degrees Centigrade – about five times the temperature of the surface of the Sun.This causes the air to expand rapidly and creates an acoustic shockwave: thunder is the sound of exploding air.”

Thunder and lightning. The sound or exploding air and hotter than the sun. That’s good to know. Thank you the Met Office and Caspar Henderson.

Now speaking of the Met Office – today’s Ongoing such as it is – is an announcement, a couple of walks recommendations for this weekend. The Met’s telling us weather-wise it’s going to be a perfect walking weekend. Dry as a bone and temperatures in the high 40s, low 50s Fahrenheit – that’s 7 to 11 degrees Centigrade.

So here’s a couple of recommendations.

The weekend’s “Specials” and a couple of golden oldies.

This morning, Saturday, Ann’s doing her Foodies’ London – The West End walk at 10.45 am.

And this afternoon’s special is Dan Parry’s London’s Spymasters. It goes at 2.30 pm. Both of those walks much acclaimed and rare blooms. Dan’s Spymasters Walk only takes place once a month. And Ann’s West End Foodies Walk is an even rarer treat. It takes place once every three months.

As for golden oldies, well, for starters, this afternoon’s Kensington Walk. I, David, normally guide it. But this afternoon it’s Karen’s Kensington that gets a rare airing. The point being, with Karen, you’re in the best possible hands. She’s a Guide of the Year Award winner. The presenter of the Next Stop, London travel show. And for good measure, “the world’s greatest guide.” I’m not making that up. That’s what the august American travel magazine Travel & Leisure dubbed her  – dubbed her? crowned her – in its cover story a few years back.

And this evening, well, it has to be the 7.30 pm Ghosts of the Old City Walk. Because it’s guided tonight – it’s a rare appearance – by Mr Ghost Walks Guide himself, actor Shaughan Seymour. Shaughan’s one of the greats. With his storytelling prowess – that voice of his, it’s like listening to a rainbow – well, he turns that ghost walk into a journey into fear. A delightful, delicious, delectable journey into fear. Catch it while you can.

And as for tomorrow, Sunday. At 2.30 Philip’s doing Islington Between the Wars. That just might be the most rarefied, the most exotic bloom in the London Walks Kew Gardens of Walks.

And tomorrow – Sunday, January 28th – you can actually do some Londoning even if you’re in Fort Worth, Texas or Chang Mai, Thailand. You can do some Londoning – some really fine and fun Londoning – exquisitely English Londoning – because Richard IV – at 7 pm our time – will be guiding his Virtual Tour – P.G. Wodehouse in London.

The recommendation for this one is a two-word job. Monosyllabic. Just go.

You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. Emanating from –

home of London Walks,

London’s signature

walking tour company.

London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size

walking tour company.

And as long as we’re at it,

London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.

That’s the key to everything.

It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science:

you get what you pay for.

And just as surely,

you also get what you don’t pay for.

Back in 1968 when we got started

we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question:

Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world?

You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world

you do whatever you have to do

to attract and keep

the best guides in London –

you want them guiding for you,

not for somebody else.

Bears repeating:

the way we’re structured –

a guides’ cooperative –

is the key to the whole thing.

It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following,

a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases

distinguished professionals:

By way of example, Stewart Purvis, the former Editor

(and subsequently CEO) of Independent Television News.

And Lisa Honan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of St Helena, the island where Napoleon breathed his last and, some say, had his penis amputated –

Napoleon didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot juste – he was dead.)

Stewart and Lisa –

both of them CBEs –

are just a couple of our headline acts.

Or take our Ripper Walk. It’s the creation of the world’s leading expert on Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow, the author of the definitive book on the subject.  Britain’s most distinguished crime historian, Donald is, in the words of The Jack the Ripper A to Z,“internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Donald’s emeritus now but he’s still the guiding light on our Ripper Walk. He curates the walk. He trains up and mentors our Ripper Walk guides. Fields any and all questions they throw at him.

The London Walks Aristocracy of Talent – its All-Star team of guides – includes a former London Mayor. It includes the former Chief Music Critic for the Evening Standard. It includes the Chair of the Association of Professional Tour Guides. And the former chair of the Guild of Guides.

It includes barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians,

university professors,

criminal defence lawyers,

Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actors,

a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the big one, the Guide of the Year Award)…

well, you get the idea.

As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament,

every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar

and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…

come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks.

And that’s by way of saying, Good walking and Good Londoning

one and all. See ya next time.

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