Just another day in the London Walks office – and a recommendation

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with today’s London fix.

Story time. History time.

Good morning, one and all. It’s Sunday, July 30th. This one’s going to be a cuppa – a quick tea break – podcast rather than the standard fare, the usual full-on ‘on this day in London history’ entree.

The next one of those will probably be run up the flag pole on August 8th. August 8th is International Cat Day and Ann is marking it by giving her new Cats in London History walk. And I thought it would be fun – and, yes, edifying to find out what was going on in London on the day cats first got their day. As it happens it was August 8th, 2002. So, cometh the day, we’ll purr on back 21 years and see what was going on here when all that was first coming down the cat walk.

So, really just a bit of quotidian London today. And a recommendation for a walk this afternoon.

The quotidian London stuff… Well, first let me invite you home. It’s no secret that Mary and I are the capos – London Walks is our baby – has been for 33 years now – and we do our best to look after it. We in effect run it off our kitchen table. Ok, we’ve got a little office off our kitchen. It’s like the cockpit of an aeroplane. Though I prefer the nautical metaphor, prefer to call it the bridge. There’s room for just two of us at any one time. Unless one of us is going to be standing. Anyway, Peter, one of our key staffers, – the great Peter – works on Saturday. And lots of adventures out back for Peter y’day. We’ve got the most wonderful pair of little robins out there. We dote on them. They’re so pretty and busy. We see them all the time. And sure enough, they’ve got a nest. It’s on a trellis on a wall. It’s well disguised, lots of sticks and bits and bobs for nest building. Anyway, alas, something went badly wrong y’day. And down came the nest. Peter rushed out. The little ones were very much alive. He put the nest back in place. And was pleased that mama and poppa Robin took over, rushed back home, with goodies in their beaks. And then it happened again. Once again, Peter to the rescue. This time he didn’t just put their nest back in place. He built a little something to hold it, secure it. So, fingers crossed. We’re on the bridge there, taking London Walks phone calls and answering London Walks emails and we’re simultaneously keeping a beady on the nest. Hoping the biggest of hopes that the baby robins make it.

And then last night, felt like a stroll after I sent out the Kensington chapter in the London Walks book to the fine people who’d gone on my Kensington Walk that afternoon and before I got down to the further task of sending out my advancer email to the people who’d signed up for this morning’s Hampstead walk. So, yes, thought I’d stretch my legs prior to another emailing session. And this time headed west, headed to Kilburn High Road. We live in West Hampstead, which is betwixt and between Hampstead and Kilburn. And what a difference there is between those two pieces of London. There’s actually a serious difference between Kilburn and West Hampstead.

Kilburn isn’t wealthy. It’s a little bit down at heel. Shops, produce, etc. are super cheap. And so varied. The place is as multi-ethnic as London gets. And it is just full of life. It’s fun to walk along there. You see it all on Kilburn High Road. But for some reason, one of those unbidden thoughts, as I moved along there last night, it struck me that ‘as neighbourhoods go this place could be a London version of that bit of Brooklyn or the Bronx that’s the setting for the opening of Scorsese’s great Mafia film, Goodfellas. Like the mobsters hanging out in front of mobster chief Pauly’s front business – I think it was a taxi service – everybody was out on the pavement in Kilburn last night. Talking. Smoking. Smooking hookahs. Urban pic-nicking. You name it. Unlike Pauly and Tuddy and Jimmy Two Times in Scorsese’s film, the good folk of Kilburn aren’t mobsters, but street-wise it had that same feel. Everybody out on the street. Socailising, watching life go by. It’s appealing. So much better than going through a super rich London neighbourhood that’s effectively a ghost town because all those multi-million price tag homes have been bought by Russian and Chinese and Middle Eastern plutocrats and they’re empty, they’re not lived in. They’re just an investment, a place for the super rich to get their money out of, say, Putin’s Russia and park it in a safe place.

Well, just a London observation that every London who moves very much at all around his city will recognise as the true state of play these days in The Big Smoke.

And a recommendation, Adam’s Swinging 60s London. Goes this afternoon. If you haven’t been on an Adam walk, don’t deny yourself any longer. He may well be the best guide in London at this time. So many things to recommend – highly recommend – about Adam’s walks. But I’ll single out one here. You don’t have to be mad keen on 60s pop music to love that Swinging 60s walk. He weaves strands of culture and history and social goings on into the mix so even if you can’t remember the 60s because you were there. Or can’t remember it because you weren’t there, and in any case pop music isn’t your thing, you’ll love the outriders on his walks. All that history and cultural stuff.

C’est tout.

You’ve been listening to the Today in London History 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 distinguished


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

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.

The London Walks All-Star team of

guides includes a former London

Mayor, it includes barristers (one of

them an MBE); it includes doctors,

geologists, museum curators,

archaeologists, historians, criminal

defence lawyers, university professors,

Royal Shakespeare Company 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 Londoning one and all. See ya next time.

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