Hyrox, Cats & Happy 643rd Birthday!

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

This is London Walks.

Streets ahead.

Story time. History time.


Good morning, London. And good morning the world over. It’s April 17th, 2024. Today’s pin is Here’s what’s going on in London. So it’s for the rest of the world. And for those benighted Londoners who aren’t in the know. A London headline sums it up nicely.  Hyrox: the grueling cult workout that’s taken over London. We’re told that Londoners have become addicted to it. The Evening Standard reporter who checked it out said when he first heard of it he thought Hyrox was a new brand of overpriced bottled water. His flatmate thought it was a rodent. Two swings, two misses. Turns out Hyrox is a fitness race. It’s been around a while. It was invented in Germany seven years ago. But Londoners have finally cottoned on. And then some. It’s become the world capital of Hyrox. And why is that? No one knows for sure. The inventor, one Christian Toetzke, says Londoners are obsessed with fitness “not least because the state of our public health is, well, not great.” The name Hyrox is a mashup of ‘hybrid’ (it combines running and workouts) and ‘rockstar.’ – because, says, Toetzke, no other accolade would do justice to those who take part in the grueling race. You want a quick look at the ingredients on the package. A Hyrex race comprises a 1km sprint on a SkiErg, a full-body cardio machine; a 50m weighted sled push; a 50m sledge pull; 80m of burpee broad jumps; 1,000m of rowing; a 200m farmer’s carry (using a kettlebell); 100m of sandbag lunges; and 100 wall ball throws.

And no, you’re not alone, I also didn’t know what burpee broad jumps are. Don’t think I want to know. But while I’m lolling about in my ignorance Hyrex is taking London by storm. Toetzke says he wants it to “become the gym-goer’s equivalent of the London Marathon for runners”. And for the record, the age group it’s most popular with is 35 to 39-year olds.

Well, while they’re doing sandbag lunges – that’s lunges not lunches – and burpee broad jumps the rest of us can be breathing fresh air, getting natural light, stimulating our minds and doing our bodies a power of good with the gentle and elegant exercise known as a good walk. As opposed to punishing the old jalopy with something that makes what they put you through at Marine boot camp look like a little old ladies’ tea party. How did British writer Christopher Hitchens put it, “I don’t have a body, I am a body.” Those of you who have caught the bug and are doing the Gadarene swine Hyrex burpee lunges good luck to you. We’ll stick with our regimen of TLC.


Moving on, today’s Random. Back to cats we go. With Ann’s next Cat Tails – A Feline Take on London History walk fast padding its way toward us – the next one’s on May 12th – and given that we now know there are 300,000 dogs in London the missing piece to the puzzle is how many cats are there in this town? Try 600,000 for size. That’s two cats for every dog. I can hear purrs of satisfaction all round. From every London postcode.


Moving on, today’s Ongoing. There, up there, in the deep sky of London history, can you see that comet scraping across the firmament. How far back is that you say? Try 643 years. It’s April 17th, 1381. It’s a birthday. It’s the birthday of the seal of the London Mayoralty. London’s all about signs and symbols and coded messages and learning to read them. And a hugely important one is the seal of the London Mayoralty. Here’s the story. Here’s how you read it.

It was in the reign of Richard II. And it came to pass that the old mayoralty seal should be broken, seeing that it was too ‘small, rude and ancient.’ And that another new seal should take its place. And that the new seal should display the figures of St Peter and St Paul. St Paul is of course the patron saint of the City of London. And St Peter is the patron saint of Westminster Abbey. The two of them – paired on the seal of the Mayor of London – combining the crown as it were, the royal capital, through St Peter’s connection with Westminster Abbey and the people, the independently minded people – “he, the king, has got his capital, Westminster, we’ve got ours, London” – combining the people via St Paul, the patron saint of their city. London. And then below the figures of the two saints, a shield for the arms of the City. A shield guarded on either side by a lion.

And as for that shield, think about what it combines. It’s got the red cross of St George on it. St George the patron saint of England. And in what in Heraldic terms is called the first quarter of the shield – to put it in horological terms, the first quarter is from nine o’clock to midnight – in the first quarter of the shield is a red upright sword. That sword bespeaks St Paul – it represents the sword with which he was beheaded in Rome. Where the church of three fountains stands today. Three fountains because it is said that Paul’s head bounced three times when it was lopped off and each place it bounced a fountain appeared. And it was there that St Peter was subsequently crucified.  Crucified upside down. Upside down because crucifixion was reserved for slaves, disgraced soldiers, Christians, and foreigners. Peter, a Jewish Christian from Palestine, fit the bill. But what about Paul? He couldn’t be crucified because he was a Roman citizen. Beheading was the preferred method of capital punishment for Roman citizens. As it was 1500 years later for English noblemen. The wry phrase for being executed was he was launched into eternity. To put that into airline seating terms, being hanged was flying economy. Being beheaded was flying first class.

There were one or two elements to the new mayoralty seal. St Peter and St Paul are each flanked by a Sergeant at Arms. And directly above them is Virgin of Mary with her child on her lap. And flanking her, two angels. Anyway, that’s it. That was the flash new City of London Mayoralty seal. Today is its 643rd birthday. And elements of it – the coat of arms, the lions – are to be seen all over the City of London. You just have to know what you’re looking at, have to know how to read them, how to decode them.

And for a coda – and historically it doesn’t get any better than this. Remember the date. It was April 17th, 1381. They had no way of knowing but there was a god almighty asteroid streaking toward them. The Peasants’ Rebellion. It was just six weeks up ahead. It would climax on June 15th, 1381. It would climax in Smithfield. Smithfield. The smooth field. There it is. Always. To see London you have to hear it. The principals were that 14-year-old boy king, Richard II. The leader of the thousands of angry, armed, bent on violence peasants, Wat Tyler. And the Mayor of London, William Walworth. Who just two months previously would have been admiring, with deep satisfaction, the impressive new seal of his mayoralty.

Well, the unfolding of that episode in London another big London story. I think I’ll roll it out cometh the anniversary of that streaking asteroid smacking into London.

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

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, a former Museum of London archaeologist, historians,

university professors (one of them a distinguished Cambridge University paleontologist); it includes

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *