Weekend Roundup - 29th Jan '12
It's more of a demi roundup this week featuring Sundays walk, which after a couple of people didn't turn up, included Sandra, Caroline and Charles, who undeterred by the cold, joined me on a wander around 'My neck of the woods'.
Here they are in front of Roa's twelve foot rabbit on Hackney Road. There are quite a few works by the Belgian street artist in the area, who specialises in painting large scale black and white animals, so I wasn't suggesting that this particular rabbit has twelve feet, but was alluding to its size.
The rabbit has had a lucky escape, as a couple of years ago, Hackney Council wanted to paint over it. Apparently it was 'a blight on the environment', but thanks to a campaign spearheaded by the Premises music studios and cafe on whose wall the giant rabbit is daubed, in one week, 2000 local residents signed a petition demanding that the rabbit be allowed to stay and for once the voice of the people was heard. Incidentally, aside from playing host to anyone who's anyone in the music scene, the Premises studio also generates their own electricity from solar panels on the roof, where they also have their own hive and bee colony ... so maybe they make their own honey as well.
And keeping on a large scale street art theme, here are Sundays intrepid explorers standing in front of one of Sweet Toof's large sets of gnashers, which are situated just off Brick Lane.
Sweet Toof has created a niche for himself by painting teeth and gums all over east London. As it goes, I think I prefer Roa's animals.
Thanks to Sandra, Caroline and Charles for coming along.
Pearly Kings & Queens
For sufferers of Koumpounophobia they are the stuff of nightmares and for everyone else they are a London oddity; those jolly elderly folk with a penchant for covering their clothes in buttons and standing around collecting money for charity. I am of course talking about Pearly Kings and Queens. I happened to see some last Saturday, so if you're not sure what I'm talking about then, they look like this:
Or at least ... they do from the back. As with all these things, a phenomenon like this doesn't just happen over night, and in the case of the Pearly Kings & Queens it began back in the late nineteenth century with a street sweeper called Henry Croft.
Henry was born in the early 1860's and brought up in an orphanage in Somers Town, an area slightly north of, but nestling between Euston and St Pancras. At the age of thirteen, young Henry left the orphanage to make his way in life and became a street sweeper. It would seem that he spent a great deal of time around the markets, which at the time were populated by the Costermongers (fruit and vegetable sellers), who could be identified by the single rows of pearl buttons sewn on to their trousers and caps.
Although it is generally agreed that the Costermongers were a bit rough around the edges, they were a close knit community and would always look out for each other and if one Costermonger was down on his luck, the others would have a whip round to help him out. In a similar fashion, Henry Croft decided that he would like to somehow give something back to the orphanage that had helped him, so began to collect money. He also realised that he needed to draw attention to himself, so began collecting up all the pearl buttons he could find from the market streets and sewed as many as he possibly could to his hat and clothes.
You would have assumed that the story might end there, but somehow, Henry Croft became a bit of a minor celebrity, and was so successful in his charitable endeavours that other organisations and especially other orphanages, workhouses and hospitals requested Henry's assistance in helping them to raise money too. He couldn't do all this on his own and that much needed help came in the form of the Costemonger families who, spread throughout Londons' street markets, chose one family in each Borough and also the City of London to become Croft's representatives and effectively gave birth to the Pearly Monarchy and what still today runs at the Pearly Kings and Queens association and registered charity.
When Henry Croft died in 1930, it is thought he had managed to collect £200,000 (in todays money) for charity, which is no mean feat for anyone, let alone an orphaned Victorian street cleaner. He was laid to rest in Finchley Cemetery, but unfortunately the accompanying statue of Henry Croft, the original Pearly King standing proudly in his button covered top hat and coat was vandalised in 1995. The good news is that it's been restored and he can now be found in the crypt of St Martins in the Field, just by Trafalgar Square.
I sincerely apologise to any Koumpounophobia sufferers who may have inadvertently stumbled across this post.
Weekend roundup - 21st/22nd Jan '12
The second weekend of London walks in 2012 have passed in a flurry of factoids, fun and perhaps another word beginning in 'F' that currently eludes me. Before I begin the weekend roundup I'm afraid I must start on a sour note; a sombre incident that I feel compelled to share or even warn you about. I feel it is my duty, although what you are about to read will perhaps outrage you as much as it did myself.
Before saturday afternoon's walk (which begins near to St Paul's cathedral), I thought I'd pop in to a nearby pub and become more familiar with Charles II. I ordered a pint of lime and soda and Charles II didn't order anything, because he existed only as pages in a book. The pub is called The Centre Page and is on that little stretch of walkway that runs between the 'wobbly bridge' and the cathedral. You can see it in the below picture. The yellowy building on the left.
I deliberately included St Paul's in the photo, so as to give you a better idea of where the pub is situated, so you can AVOID it. The reason being, because I ordered a lime & soda (admittedly a whole pint, with ice), the constituents of which, mainly being both lime and soda water costs almost nothing to produce, yet this drink, in this pub costs £3.10. That's right £3.10. It's a disgrace. Rant over.
Saturday - St Paul's to Monument
By the time I met Jeremy, Juliette and John at 2.30pm my lime and soda related outrage had subsided and we set off on our Londony adventure. Despite being a small group, I would reckon they were collectively of above average height, and John and Juliette were particularly keen to inspect the Occupy camp of tents clustered around the base of St Paul's.
I try to learn something new before each walk, regarding a particular facet of that walk and on Saturday I had decided to learn the exact term to describe why the Millennium Bridge is know as the 'Wobbly' bridge and that term (which I managed to drop in) is 'Synchronous Lateral Excitation', a phenomenon that has been known about for hundreds of years, but somehow, no one thought of mentioning to Norman Foster, responsible for building the bridge. If you're interested in finding out more about Synchronous Lateral Excitation, then you might be interested to read this paper on the subject by David E Newland from the Dept of Engineering at Cambridge University. Then again, you might not.
Anyway, we continued on through Bankside, Borough Market and surrounding area, then headed over London Bridge and finished up at the Monument. Here's a slightly blurry photo of Saturday's Chalkers looking a bit confused on London Bridge, or if not confused, certainly pointing on slightly different directions in a photo art directed by themselves.
Sunday - 'My neck of the woods'
I've been unsuccessfully attempting to take a few more photos on the walks, but have realised that if you're the tour guide person then it's quite hard to take photos of the group, as for quite a large portion of the walk I am talking. Anyway, it's something I'll work on, but if you come on a walk and take some photos, please feel free to email them to me, should you so desire. Unfortunately I only took one photo on Sunday.
So yes, I met Beth, Paul, Sam and Anna at the designated meeting point and did a slightly different route from previous Sunday walks, heading over to Spitalfields and then battling through the hoards up Brick Lane to Columbia Road before traversing Kingsland Road and returning to the Old Street area via Hoxton High Street. Unfortunately the Hoxton Street Monster Supply shop (a shop that provides everything a monster might need to ... well, be a monster) is closed on Sundays, but you can find out more about them here, and also the work they do in the local area through the Ministry of Stories.
Sam, who came on Sunday, is a resident of De Beavoir town in Hackney, so it was great to have a 'local' wanting to explore their area. I've discovered that people seem to consider that guided walks are for 'tourists', and although I'm biased I would argue that there's always something to discover about the place that you live.
The group were an easy going, inquisitive bunch and here they are at Columbia Road flower market.
Most alliterated group - Saturday Afternoon (Juliette, John & Jeremy)
Most French - Jeremy
Most Polish - Anna
Person who most judges historical figures based purely on their looks - Sam
Best moustache - No winners
Weekend Roundup - 14th & 15th Jan '12
The first London walks of 2012 took place this weekend under a clear, crisp and bright wintery sky ... except when it got dark on Saturday. It was still clear and crisp, but less bright.
Saturday 14th Jan
In the end it kicked off with Saturday afternoons walk and after meeting the group of intrepid Chalkers, had a minor mooch around the streets that surround St Paul's cathedral before heading over the wobbly bridge to Bankside.
We paid an impromptu visit to the Rose Theatre, or at least its watery remains, as it was the first Elizabethan theatre, built in 1587 and after the foundations were re-discovered in 1989 now resides in the bowels of the office building that was built over the top. However, we had an equally impromptu mini talk from a lady who worked there, and next time you're down on Bankside, spare a thought for the Rose, to which the recreated Globe owes a huge debt.
Anyway, here are Saturday's Bowl Of Chalkers in Borough Market. See how much fun they're having. They've even got a coffee. It just blows me away each time I see it.
Here they are exploring a quiet enclave of of Guy's Hospital.
Sunday 15th Jan
On my way to meet Sunday's Chalkers for their east London walk I spied a new piece by street artist Xylo which has popped up by Old Street roundabout next to the City Road Turnpike plaque. Xylo is more than a one trick wonder, but these little golden frogs are sprinkled all over London and apparently represent the 'global crisis of mass species extinction'.
It was another clement, but chilly day and despite Old Street underground station and most of the Northern Line being closed, I was impressed with the tenacity of the group to valiantly find their way to the starting point.
Here they are outside the Geffrye Museum, which if you haven't been is one of the many gems to be discovered in the Shoreditch area. It is a museum dedicated to how Londoners have lived from 1600 to the present day, housed within a beautiful building that was itself built in 1714.
Laure seemed to be quite taken with the tiny figures created by street artist Pablo Delgado, like this one just near to Columbia Road flower market.
As were the whole group for that matter, even when standing on a street almost completely covered by street artist Eine.
That photo wasn't remotely staged by the way. After this, we headed to Spitalfields where the east London walk drew to a close outside the Ten Bells, a pub whose walls, if they could speak might reveal the true identity of Jack The Ripper. Obviously they can't speak, so I don't know why I mentioned it. Sorry, I was having a moment.
Most Canadian - Amy & Whitney (although Amy was pseudo Canadian, so I guess Whitney has the edge)
Most French - Laure
Most medically qualified group - Saturday afternoon
Most multi lingual - Dan
Happy New year - Bowl Of Chalk is back
Hello. Welcome to the year 2012. Bowl Of Chalk is back and looking forward to doing more walks, learning new things about London and meeting new people ... or at least people that are new to me, and hopefully see again, a few of those who came on the inaugural walks at the end of last year.
It's all pretty much the same as last year, but with a few changes ... which could be said of every new year I suppose. I've split the 'London in a nutshell' walk up in to two separate bite sized walks, so Saturday now consists of a walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's Cathedral starting at 10.30am and an afternoon walk that begins at St Paul's at 2.30pm, heads over the wobbly bridge to Borough Market and Southwark, then back over the Thames via London Bridge to the Monument.
Sunday will stay the same with the 'My neck of the woods' walk, but it now starts at 11am to allow people a bit more of a Sunday lie-in. All of the walks should be weighing in at about 3 hrs. Please check the Walks section for more info.
Finally, I'll put the dates I'm now booking for below, but a simple-ish rule of thumb is that I'll be doing walks on the last three weekends of each month.
14th & 15th, 21st & 22nd, 28th & 29th
11th & 12th, 18th & 19th, 25th & 26th
Thanks very much. Once again, a Happy New year and hopefully see you at some point in 2012 for some Bowl Of Chalk action.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.