Valentine’s Day – Venus & Cupid

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

Story time. History time. Streets ahead.

A special treat today. And tomorrow. Special treat, but we’re still very much in Trafalgar Square. In the National Gallery. In front of one painting. And which painting would that be? Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, so naturally, we’re in front of Bronzino’s Allegory with Venus and Cupid. Venus and Cupid before us. Gifted art historian Helena at our side. Over the next two podcasts Helena’s going to unfold Bronzino’s Venus and Cupid for us, like a rose bud opening up. Oxford-educated Helena guided, brilliantly, for London Walks for many years. American executive Christopher, one of my all-time favourite walkers, put it best about Helena. He said, “I could listen to that little blonde all day.” Now comes the sad part. Though it’s not completely sad. We lost Helena a few years ago. She moved to Cornwall. But we didn’t completely lose her. Because she makes the occasional contribution to the London Walks podcast. And I hope the day is coming when she’ll do Virtual Art History tours for us. Because she does it to perfection. Walter Pater once said, “To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” When I listen to Helena talk about paintings she knows so well and loves so much, well, I’m always put in mind of that remark by Walter Pater. Hard gemlike flame, maintaining the ecstasy, Helena partakes of that success in life. Partakes of it and shares it with us.

Here’s Helena…

[Part I of Helen’s exposition of the famous Bronzino painting follows]

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

home of London Walks,

London’s signature

walking tour company.m

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 (including a Cambridge University paleontologist),

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 *