This morning I was standing in Piccadilly Circus awaiting the arrival of a family from Boston for a walk around Westminster. There's a very famous statue in Piccadilly which everyone calls 'Eros'. Funnily enough, it was built as a fountain (not a statue) and was never officially called Eros, but I think, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. Whilst I was standing there, a Police car pulled up, a couple of Police Officers got out, wandered over to Eros (I'll call it Eros too) had a look up at him, then got back in their car and drove off. Obviously, my interest was firmly piqued, so I investigated and discovered that this morning, Eros was looking a bit different, he was wearing a gas mask.
Later in the morning we were standing outside Buckingham Palace and noticed that the statue of Queen Victoria also had some sort of gas mask. Around lunch time, Jason, who was on the walk, pointed at the statue of Horatio Nelson on top of his column in Trafalgar Square, exclaiming that Nelson also had a gas mask. Of course he did. We obviously discussed who could be responsible and what were their reasons ... deciding that it was some kind of protest about air pollution. It would seem that we were correct.
Early this morning, under the cover of darkness, Greenpeace activists scaled quite a number of statues around the capital, fitting each of them with their own unique and specially made gas mask; highlighting the need for improved air quality. Winston Churchill, Queen Boudicca, Oliver Cromwell and Thierry Henry are now all part of the same club. I hadn't even known that footballer Thierry Henry even had a statue ... so that was news to me.
It would seem that the Greenpeace teams responsible for adding these accessories to the statues, did so with utmost care so as not to cause damage, and on top of that, you'll notice that each of the gas masks were designed specifically for the recipient. Horatio Nelson's mask includes an anchor and ships wheel, reflecting his sea faring prowess, whilst the mask worn by Eros is replete with hearts. Each mask was apparently made by artist Chris Kelly.
London is often in the news due to its high levels of pollution, so it's perhaps no surprise with the Mayor of London and London Assembly Elections about to take place next month that Greenpeace have chosen this moment to highlight the capital's pollution problem in a daring, visual and striking way, encouraging people to sign their clean air petition, calling for Prime Minister David Cameron to develop a clean air action plan.
Aside from my regular weekend 'pay what you want' London walks, during the week I put together 'private walks' for people based on what they'd like to get out of the walk. Usually people let me know whether it's their first visit to London, whether they'd like to see a few sights, or other things. It might be I meet them where they're staying or arrange a suitable meeting point. I usually split these walks up in to either half days (up to 4 hours) or full days (up to 8 hours), although I'm pretty flexible. Here are some of the people I met and private walks I did in March.
Top left is Peter & Ulrika from Germany who braved a particularly wet and miserable day to explore Westminster, the main government & Royal area of London where they happened to be staying. They're pictured in Covent Garden with St Paul's 'the Actors' Church' behind them. The portico you can see in the background formed the setting of the opening scene of the play 'Pygmalion' by George Bernard Shaw, later to become the musical 'My Fair Lady'. Top right is Catherine and her team from a law firm based in the City of London. I met them for a post-work walk around their office, taking in bits of Roman wall, the City's fascinating history and of course St Paul's cathedral; the steps of which you can see them standing on. Bottom left is Daryl and his family in Cecil Court, often said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. Bottom right is Brenna and her brother in Spitalfields after a walk around east London.
Top left is Felisse and her two sisters who were visiting London from the Philippines. We spent pretty much the whole day together, beginning by the Tower of London and iconic Tower Bridge, finishing up in Westminster. Top right is Margaret and her crew from the States who also did a full day extravaganza, beginning and ending at their hotel, the Waldorf Hilton on Aldwych. You can see them with the statue of Hodge, the beloved cat of Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first definitive English dictionary in 1755. Bottom left is Lena and her family just before I dropped them off for a well deserved pub lunch after exploring the sights of Westminster including, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Bottom right is Dennis and his family outside Farlows on Pall Mall who have been selling fishing equipment and outdoor gear since 1840. In fact, it's where Prince Charles gets his fishing tackle and waterproof clothing. Dennis's father is a keen fly fisherman, so we all popped in to Farlows, so Dennis could get a peculiarly English fishing based gift for his father.
The final set of photos show Jeanmarie and her family after a street art based walk around Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields in east London. Top right is Susan & co. in Postman's Park in the City of London, which houses an intriguing memorial to 'Heroic Self-Sacrifice'. Bottom left is Cynthia visiting London from the States before heading off to Italy for a week or so. She is standing in the rather lovely Whitehall Gardens. Last but not least is Marc & co. in St James's Park. If you look very, very carefully, you might make out Buckingham Palace in the background.
If you are visiting London and would like a fun, informal and informative guided tour ... then please feel free to get in touch.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.