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 walks, I also do private walks during the week if people so desire. I've been fortunate to have done a few such walks recently, and they all tend to be quite different, generally for people visiting from abroad (I believe they're called tourists) who would like to explore London. Having said that, the other day I did a walk for someone's 65th birthday. He was called Charles (a non tourist), and what a nice chap he was, as was his extended family and friends.
Sometimes people like to see 'the sights', some people even like to visit them, go inside and get lost within Westminster Abbey or the Royal Courts of Justice (we have done both of these) and other people have seen the sights and want to experience London beyond the tourist hotspots and explore the back streets and alleyways or jump in and out of cabs on their way around. I am very happy to help people uncover all these things, and here are a few of the people that have joined me over the last couple of weeks.
Mark and Jo from Australia standing outside St James's Palace, built by Henry VIII (although I doubt he helped much) in 1536. Those two guards were a laugh a minute.
Kevin and Ji standing in front of what is officially, the oldest door in Britain, which apparently was installed in about 1050. Even with my limited maths ability, I know that's quite a long time ago. You can find the door inside Westminster Abbey, which is chock full of lots of other interesting things aside from old doors. Actually, my favourite part of that particular visit, was when we asked an official where the toilet was and were told 'It's just behind William Shakespeare'. Excellent. (He's not actually buried there, it's a statue).
Howard and Jessica from the States just before taking cover inside Camden Market. In fact, we managed to fit in three markets that day, along with Spitalfields Market and Borough Market.
The birthday boy Charles and his entourage. Little did his daughter Ellie (or me for that matter) envisage when she booked the walk months ago, that it'd be such a hideous, wet and cold day. Still, they were all very good about it.
Tracy, Tabetha and Dimitri standing in the midst of Piccadilly Circus on what was an all day London extravaganza walk punctuated by a spot of lunch in the west end.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.