London Calling on Monday, July 31st – The Week Ahead

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

And it’s Good Morning, London.

It’s Monday morning, July 31st.

Like Saturday’s, this one’s a bit of a potpourri. What the week ahead holds in the way of specials and one-offs. But like all of these podcasts to some extent it’s going to veer into the personal. There’ll be a couple of jottings. More or less diary entries. This, that and the other that caught my attention and that I’d rather Time didn’t blackhole. Jotting them down here, putting them into this podcast gives me something in the way of a record about one or two of the wayside flowers that I encountered on this last weekend and this last day in July of 2023. It’s the best I can do in the way of a shield against that great, greedy ogre oblivion. Bearing down on them, as it is.

So, first of all, inspired by Ann’s informing me that August 8th is International Cat Day – which I was clueless about and which is why August 8th is the date Ann’s chosen to run her new Cats in London History walk – well, it suddenly dawned on me that every day must have a flag that signifies Today is This or That Day. And naturally enough, today being July 31st, my curiosity was piqued about, yes, July 31st.

Anyway, welcome to National Avocado Day. And World Ranger Day. And National Rasberry Cake Day. And Uncommon Instrument Day (that’s rare, uncommon musical instruments). And National Mutt Day. Really like that one. But I like even more National Black Tot Day.

What the hell is National Black Tot Day you’ll be asking. Well, you certainly know about the daily rum ration of the British Royal Navy. That daily rum ration – given to all the sailors on the ship – was known as a “tot.” It was a time-honoured tradition. Stretched back centuries. Began in 1655. Originally the daily tot was a half pint. It was given to the tars between 1100 hours and 1200 hours. That was known as Up Spirits time. That daily allocation was halved in 1824 and halved again in 1850. And then, alas, on July 31st, 1970 the Royal Navy decided to end the daily tot. And ever since – for the last 53 years – July 31st has been known as Black Tot Day.

Well, it’s a fun bit of trivia, isn’t. I’m guiding a walk this afternoon. I’ll probably toss that silver dollar of fun information toward my walkers. Sort of like – I should be so lucky – Novak Djokovic taking off a wristband and flinging it in into the stands.

What else? Well, I was really struck yesterday by Andrew Rawnsley’s column in the Observer. He titled it, Is this parliament the worst ever? He opens his piece by saying, In the rich – but not always happy and glorious – history of our legislature, there’s been an Addled Parliament, a Bad Parliament, a Barebones Parliament, a Mad Parliament and a Merciless Parliament. Will the current one, which began with the big Tory win in December 2019 and must be dissolved by December 2024, be remembered as the Worst Parliament? Exhibit one for the prosecution is the debauched reign of the moral vacuum called Boris Johnson. He is the only prime minister to be found guilty of committing a criminal offence while at Number 10. Doubly ignominious, he is also the first to have held that great office and been catapulted out of the Commons after being found guilty of serially lying to Parliament. Though the charge list begins with the debaucheries of the former prime minister, it does not end there.”

Well, you get the idea. Rawnsley – arguably our greatest living political commentator – pretty well concludes that this one will go down in history as The Worst Ever Parliament.

I think one of the important milestones of growing up is realising that the goings-on – the malfeasance, the wrong-doing, the crookedness, the corruption in your time is just as bad as it was in the bad old days. I remember when I was a kid hearing about that monster Boss Tweed and further back The Gilded Age and thinking, in my childhood innocence, “gosh, they were awful back then, thank goodness all that’s in the past, thank goodness our day and age is clean and upright and our politicians are all saintly and on the straight and narrow.” Well, so much for the naivete and innocence of childhood.

Anyway, we soldier on. National Mutt Day, National Avocado Day, National Black Tot Day, National End of Innocence Day and National Rampant Crooked Politicians Day (which is sort of every day)… just realised, basically what I’ve got going here is, well, I’ve set myself up as a copy taster for you. It’s a journalism term. Maybe look it up if you don’t know it. Having a copy-taster is a happy state of affairs.  Saves lots of time.

Ok, now walks this week. Here again, I’ve been mulling over our operation. I’ve realised that most people just don’t have time to spend a lot of time on our or any other website. It’s sort of like how many people have the foggiest about how many businesses have been woven together to make the Bezos, the Amazon empire. The only people who would know that – apart from some of Bezos’s people – would be a financial specialist who was trying to understand that corporation and appraise it, assess it. For the rest of us, we haven’t a clue. I think I know that in addition to the main Amazon business he also owns the Washington Post and Abe Books and – but that’s the extent of on my mental map of his business goings on. Well, if you can compare a minnow with a blue whale, pretty much nobody is spending more than a few seconds stopping by at They maybe look at the walks that are on on any given day. End of story. And that’s why that Newsletter that we’ve been putting out for six months or so is useful. It’s a distillation – the specials and usually a singled out goat – Greatest of All Time – guide – for the upcoming month that can be taken in and digested in just a couple of seconds.

And I’m going to start doing that, on an occasional basis, with some of these podcasts.

So here are the specials for this week. And lo and behold I figure in this. This afternoon – at 2 pm – I get a rare chance to do the Legal London Walk. And why go on it with me, apart from the fact that I’m an ok guide? I’m an ok guide that’s got both a judge’s wig and a barrister’s wig. Indeed I’m the only guide in London who has both a barrister’s wig and a judge’s wig. And yes, they’re stage props for Legal London Walks.  You want a great holiday photograph – a unique holiday photograph – come on my Inns of Court Walk this afternoon and when I ask for volunteers for the bewigging and the photograph that follows, step this way m’lud.

Moving on, Ian has created a portmanteau Jewish  London walk. It’s a walk that combines the highlights of our two very different Jewish London Walks. It’ll run twice – and August 2nd and August 4th. Ian’s created it and will be running it by way of extending the hand of welcome to the International Jewish Genealogical Conference that’s taking place this week in London.

And that gets us to the weekend. On Saturday morning we’ll be doing our monthly Docklands Special. Monthly because it only runs on the first Saturday of every month. That same morning, August 5th, Ann will be doing one of her Foodies specials: Foodies’ London – The West End Walk. And then on Sunday, August 6th Steph will be doing her much loved special of specials: Classic London Mews and Hidden Passageways.

And also on Sunday morning Adam will be doing his rather more hard-edged but really gripping number – The Krays in London. Subtitled The East End Gangland and The Dark Side of the Swinging 60s.

And Sunday afternoon we’re doing a Regent’s Canal Walk. This one covers the prettiest stretch of the canal – from the River Tyburn to Little Venice.

Well, that’s just a little bouquet of the specials for you. The full flower garden of London Walks will run to about 70 different magnifique guided walks this week. Head on over to for the full programme.

You’ve been listening to the Today in London History 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: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won 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. Nothing to add except… Welcome back! You were sorely missed. See ya tomorrow.

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