Weekend Roundup - 28th/29th April '12
If you weren't already aware, the predominant theme of this weekend's London walks is rain. Paul who came on the east end walk this morning, described it as 'London rain', the kind of relentless grey drizzle that seems to have no beginning and no end until you can't actually quite remember a time when it wasn't constantly raining. This morning however saw a mild fluctuation in this constant wetness with some really quite forceful gusts of wind and moments of much heavier rain. Therefore I would like to congratulate everyone who turned out this weekend despite the ongoing showers, and would like to add, that I'm slightly miffed to note that as I write this, it has stopped raining.
I tried to take photos of the groups in brief moments of 'un-rain'.
Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
So, here are the group from Saturday morning, shortly after we met near to Trafalgar Square. It was a pretty international weekend walker wise and this group featuring Alina, Michaela, Roberta, Zuzanna and Briana came from Austria, Russia, Poland and the U.S.A.
Behind them, you can see the National Gallery which began in 1824 with just 38 paintings, housed in a town house in Mayfair. The current building was finished in 1838 and the collection now consists of over 2,300 works of art. It's well worth a visit and as the collection belongs to the public of the United Kingdom, it's FREE.
St Paul's to the Monument
In the afternoon there were nine brave souls, who when they booked the walk, possibly envisaged wandering around Borough market and Southwark bathed in glorious sunshine. Well, eight of them did, as Liam actually contacted me on Saturday morning to see if he could come, so he knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. There was a large Chilean contingent on Saturday afternoon so I added to my limited multi lingual capabilities and can now say 'Hombre Verdi' which is 'green man' in Spanish. However, I do realise that it might not open too many doors for me if I ever find myself in Spain ... or Chile for that matter.
Maria, Emma and Becky were all born and bred Londoners, and with Liam from Northern Ireland it was a heady mix. Standing in front of St Paul's cathedral you can also see Dominique, Rodrigo, Ximena, Patricia and Javier.
My neck of the woods - east end walk
Today's walk around London's east end was a bit of a wash out, with just three people deciding to venture out in the cold, wind and the wet. However, I'd like to think that up until the point where we were all freezing cold, soaked to the bone and lost the will to live ... we had fun. Didn't we? Even if Ruth, Paul and Andrea didn't ... I think I did. Fortunately they came armed with suitably cheery dispositions. Also, it was quite handy because we were only a small group and Paul had a really big umbrella, which isn't a euphemism, he did. You can see it here.
You see ... it's pretty big. Anyway ... they're standing in front of one of street artist Roa's large scale animals. I posted a thing on facebook at the beginning of last week to say that Roa had literally just put the finishing touches to a brand new addition in his menagerie of animals in east London with a giant hedgehog. It looks like this:
So there we have it. Another weekend, another trio of walks around London and once again I've been fortunate enough to meet some lovely people, who I hopefully might see again on another walk one day ... perhaps when the weather's a bit better.
Most inappropriate footwear - Maria (brand new white pumps - only £2.50 though)
Most Chilean group - Saturday afternoon
Biggest umbrella - Paul
Best moustache - No winners
Most last minute booking - Liam
Most Austrian - Michaela & Roberta
Most giggly group of international friends - Alina, Zuzanna & Briana
Most Columbian - Andrea
Weekend Roundup - 21st/22nd April '12
I'm being particularly quick out of the blocks this weekend, rounding up the two London walks that took place, and the weekend hasn't even finished yet. There's not even a marathon runner in sight.
St Paul's to Monument
For Saturday afternoon's walk I was joined by a group of five people near to St Paul's cathedral. As it had rained on and off (more on than off) for the whole week, I had braced myself for a similar fate this weekend, but by a stroke of luck, we were blessed with sunshine and only a smattering of clouds on both walks.
Incase you are unaware, the Saturday afternoon walk takes in the area around St Paul's, a quick stroll over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside, then a stop off at Borough Market, followed by a mooch around Southwark before heading back over London Bridge to finish at the Monument. Here are Genia, Janki, Tamsin and Duncan standing beside the Thames, between the Tate Modern (currently showing the Damien Hirst retrospective) and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, with Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's cathedral in the background.
But you said there were five in the group? I hear you say. Indeed I did. There was also Rowan, but he decided he'd rather not be in the photo, which is fair enough. I don't much like being in photos myself.
I should also mention that over the next six weeks, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre have organised an incredibly ambitious and exciting event, whereby all thirty seven of Shakespeare's known plays are being staged in thirty seven different languages by theatre companies from all over the globe ... literally. Not surprisingly they have called this international Shakespeare extravaganza Globe To Globe. Two of the organisers have even come on a Bowl Of Chalk walk with me in recent months, and although they haven't asked me to mention it (they seem to be marketing it quite well themselves) I'd heartily recommend checking it out.
My neck of the woods - Sunday east end wander
Sunday morning was another sunny window in an otherwise predominantly grey week, and I was joined by a suitably robust group of nine people ready to explore the east end, including Della and Elise who had come on the Saturday afternoon walk the previous week. The following photo might not excite too many people, but a few weeks ago, I discovered that in 'my neck of the woods' there lies what is apparently the only stretch of a wood paved street in London. It looks like this.
I know it's not the most exciting photo I've ever taken, but wooden paving was the work of those industrious Victorians, as it dampened the sound of metal rimmed wheels that normally clattered over cobble stones. It's easy to forget just how noisy they would have been.
Anyway, enough about wooden streets. Here are Sunday's group in Hoxton Square. They were a pretty international bunch, hailing from America, Australia, Serbia and two people who were so well travelled they couldn't quite remember where they were from, although Tamara said that if pushed, she'd say Denmark. There were a couple of English people as well, just for good measure.
I hope I have everyone's name correct, but from left to right, they are Elise, Anja, Della, Gary, Tamara, Regina, Melinda, Amy and Ed. A few of the group took the opportunity to buy some flowers from Columbia Road Flower Market, which let's face it, is quite a good place to buy flowers, and then we wandered past the top end of Brick Lane, eventually ending up in the heart of Spitalfields.
Thanks to everyone who joined me this weekend for the walks. I really enjoyed it.
Oldest friend from home - Duncan (came down from Cambridge - thanks Dunc)
Repeat Offenders - Della and Elise
Longest hysterical laughing fit - Tamsin
Best moustache - No winners
Most prolonged hat wearers - Ed and Gary (joint winners)
Most digital savvy walk digitiser using digital technology - Tamara
Most Serbian - Anja
Most strikingly similar coats in both style and colour - Genia and Janki
A Monster Shop ... Literally
Are you a Monster, a Vampire, Werewolf or maybe just a Thing of some description? Do you find that regular dental floss just snaps on your fangs, or are you a Zombie that laments the fact that regular mints just don’t quench the hideous stench of your breath? Do you wish there was a shop that catered for you, and that the next time you enquire whether they have anything suitable for tightening your neck bolts, the shopkeeper won’t look at you with fear etched in to their eyeballs … not dissimilar from the eyeballs you like to suck on as others might boiled sweets?
Well, the good news is that if you answered YES to any of the above, I have just the shop for you. It’s called Hoxton Street Monster Supplies and as the name suggests, can be found on Hoxton High Street, near where we do our Sunday east end walk.
The shop can cater for all your monster type needs, whether you’re partial to nibbling on pieces of flayed skin or need to replenish your dwindling stock of fresh farts. For those monsters with more refined tastes you could of course take home some guts and garlic chutney or a jar of thickest human snot. You can be sure to find only the best monster supplies like fang floss, impacted earwax and zombie fresh mints, as they’ve been a ‘purveyor of quality goods for monsters of every kind’ since 1818.
It’s not always as easy being a monster as people often think, but help is at hand, as you can purchase tins of ‘mortal terror’, ‘escalating panic’ or if you’re a subtler type of monster, ‘a vague sense of unease’.
A polite notice on the door will ask you to kindly refrain from eating the staff, only one giant may be permitted at any time (it’s a small shop) and if you’re a Vampire then they will be more than happy to arrange a nocturnal visit for you (by appointment only).
I should perhaps mention that Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is under license from the Ministry of Stories, a volunteering organisation founded by Nick Hornby, Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne to encourage creative writing for youngsters in the east end through one-on-one tutoring and group workshops. It was inspired by a shop for Pirates and writing centre, opened by Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari in San Francisco called 826 Valencia. Believe it or not, Colin Firth is the Minister of Fluency and Alain de Botton, Minister for Literary Pleasures & Sorrows said “With wit, creativity and energy, the Ministry of Stories is helping society to feel less scared, less isolated and less angry, in short, more human.”
Unfortunately, the shop is closed on Sundays, but here is a monster group outside the Monster shop, when we passed by on a Sunday jaunt around Shoreditch and Hoxton on our way to Columbia Road Flower Market.
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies can be found at 159 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6PJ and the opening times are Mon – Fri (1pm – 5pm) and Sat (11am – 5pm). Also, if you're loathed to set foot outside during daylight hours because you might scare people, then you can of course order your monster supplies Online.
Weekend Roundup - 14th/15th April '12
There are three walks to roundup today, so I'll try to be reasonably concise, which might in itself be an oxymoron ... if that's the right word.
Trafalgar Sq to St Paul's
On Saturday morning I was joined by Natalie, Sam, Leah and Anne or maybe Anna (she didn't seem too sure herself) and we set off from an abnormally busy Trafalgar Square, due to the Holland House Dutch Festival, which according to their official blurb, is a 'full on party of orange proportions' to celebrate the Dutch Queen Mother's birthday. I'd have thought that a party of 'orange proportions' would be a very small and round party that could fit in the palm of your hand. Anyway ... we headed through Covent Garden, where we were joined by the fashionably late Darren. Here they all are in Covent Garden.
We then weaved our way through Fleet Street and managed to pop by a bit of 14th Century priory and also St Bride's church amongst other things en route to St Paul's cathedral.
St Paul's to Monument
Anna (or Anne) and Darren returned after lunch for some more Bowl Of Chalk action to complete the Saturday 'double whammy' and with the new recruits Della, Elise and Laura we set off from St Paul's and after a minor detour headed over the wobbly bridge to Bankside to be joined by Syreeta (I think that's how you spell it) who had been trying to find somewhere to park her car. That's beside the point really, but the next stop was the recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. If anyone of a mildly foreign disposition is reading this, I feel compelled to mention that the Globe have been busy putting together a quite incredibly adventurous and exciting festival which runs from the 21st April until the 9th June and every one of Shakespeare's plays will be performed in a different language by 37 international theatre companies. Not surprisingly they have called it the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. Check it out.
Here are Saturday afternoons group sitting inside one of the few remaining pieces of Old London Bridge which is situated in Guy's Hospital. The guy on the left (with whom Elise seems to be getting rather familiar) wasn't actually on the walk, but is a statue of John Keats who studied at the hospital before embarking on a rather short lived career as a romantic poet.
My neck of the woods - east end walk
I was fortunate enough on Sunday to be joined by another great bunch of people keen to explore Old Street, Hoxton, Shoreditch and the like. It was actually a bit nippy on Sunday and Rita who had come along on the walk decided that she'd like to invite the whole group to tea (which was incredibly nice of her). So, we popped in to I made It For You, a small, recently opened independent tea and cake type place on Pitfield Street. Here are Rita, Ivan, Nathalie, Gemma and Matt just before the soda bread arrived.
From here, we made our way to Columbia Road Flower market, scooted around the busy Brick Lane Market, shimmied through a snippet of the City of London before finishing by Spitalfields Market.
Most fashionably late - Darren and Syreeta
Most German - Anne (or Anna)
Most generous Lithuanian hot beverage provider - Rita
Best beard - Ivan
Best moustache - No winners
Tallest - Matt
Most knowledgeable about Alfred Hitchcock - Nathalie
The Della award for the whitest teeth - Elise
Weekend Roundup - 31st March/1st april '12
Officially, it was a non Bowl Of Chalk walking weekend, but Caroline, who had previously come on the Sunday east end walk had enquired about coming on the Saturday afternoon walk, so we did it and she was joined by Iris. Unfortunately (and much to my marketing team's horror) I completely forgot to take a photo.
We spent a bit of time in the Rose Theatre, which one of the volunteers there once described as the 'most important puddle in London'. It's only open on Saturdays, so if you pop down there, you'll discover why.
Westminster Birthday Wander
On Sunday I had the pleasure of taking a lovely group on a special Birthday walk private tour type of thing. It was Alexandre's birthday and his parents had asked if I'd do a walk for him, his brother Thomas and assorted friends that perhaps included a bit about the Stuarts, Tudors and Sherlock Holmes. We started at Trafalgar Square, mooched around there past the Sherlock Holmes pub (obviously), down Great Scotland Yard passing the place that was the entrance to the Ministry Of Magic in 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (where strangely more filming was taking place on Sunday), through Horse Guards Parade opposite Banqueting House where Charles I had his head chopped off and strolled through St James's Park until we reached this really big house called Buckingham Palace ... or something like that. Here's a photo of the group. To make up for not taking a photo on Saturday, I even managed to get in this one.
Incidentally, contrary to how it might appear, Steve there in the front is not going to the toilet. We then passed through Green Park, St James's Palace built by Henry VIII in 1536, down Jermyn Street where every other shop seems to have a royal warrant and finished up at Piccadilly Circus. For Sherlock Holmes fans, the Criterion Restaurant which has been knocking around there since 1874 is not only a beautiful restaurant, but where Arthur Conan Doyle set the first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.
Anyway, that is a very abridged synopsis of the walk, but hopefully Alexandre had a good birthday and everyone else enjoyed it too.
Keenest Repeat Offender - Caroline (Sat)
Birthday Boy - Alexandre
Biggest Sherlock Holmes fan - Jimmy
Most Canadian - Kathy
Best Moustache - No Winners (although Sunday was reasonably beardy)
Most half French - Claire
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.