My weekend of guided walks around London got off to start by checking out German artist, Katharina Fritsch's big blue cock in Trafalgar Square. Unveiled just two days earlier on the permanently redundant but most in the news, fourth plinth, Fritsch's sculpture has not surprisingly been effortlessly filling column inches with double entendres ever since. Without meaning to add to this, I have to say, that it was much bigger than I expected. I think it's good, that despite all our previous attempts to look back at how amazing we are, the battles we have won and the war heroes who made it possible, we still have a bit of a sense of humour, a bit of perspective and that now, we don't perhaps take ourselves quite so seriously. The previous sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse seemed to be another example of this and the current offering is certainly continuing the tradition.
The group of 14 hailed from Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand and the Peak District amongst other places. Mandy was back for her third walk with me and the rest were all first timers. Here they all are in Covent Garden on our way to St Paul's cathedral.
In the afternoon I was delighted that Zayn and Alan were able to come on another walk, a year and a bit after their first one. We had a leisurely meander from St Paul's cathedral over to Bankside, then back across London Bridge to finish at Monument. Here they are standing in front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the faithful recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. Its very existence is owed to Sam Wanamaker who unfortunately died shortly before he saw over two decades work come to fruition. I think I've mentioned this before, but even so, I'll mention it again ... in January 2014, the Globe will be opening the only indoor, candle-lit theatre in London, a recreation of a Jacobean theatre. Aside from being an exciting prospect and one which will allow them to perform plays all the year round, it will also mean that the only thatched roof in London, and the only candle-lit theatre will be right next to each other.
On Sunday, seven people joined me for a wander around east London. Martin from Philadelphia, who to all intents and purposes sounded completely American, had, it turned out, actually spent the first eight years of his life in Dalston, just up the road. Katherine was the only fully fledged Londoner in that respect whilst Jennie & Rees were down from Manchester for the weekend. Tobias and Kirsten from Germany have been living in the UK for about 14 years so were quite well versed in all things Londony. Here they all are just by Hoxton Square, with one of street artist Stik's instantly recognisable murals behind them.
Special Award for completing the 'BOC Trilogy' - Mandy
First person to come on two walks & have a completely different name each time - Zayn
Most likely to want to stand in the shade - Sonia, Vijyant & Ananya
Quietest - Josh
Best multi-tasker - Quentin
Saturday afternoon saw the biggest group of the year turn out for the walk from St Paul's to the Monument, which despite the constant threat of rain, was quite impressive. By some standards it would be a piddly showing for a guided walk in London, but by my standards it was positively humungous. So, the 14 of us (including me) set off to explore the area around St Paul's, Bankside, had a brief stop off at Borough Market, Southwark and then back over London Bridge to the finish ... or the end.
Here are the group standing on a mildly nondescript street on Bankside.
The building to the left of them is Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, who are currently in the process of building a replica indoor, candlelit Jacobean theatre, much like the one that Shakespeare and his merry band of players built on the opposite side of the river in the old Blackfriars monastery so they could perform all year round. It was also where Shakespeare actually bought a property in the final few years of life. The deed, which bears one of only a handful (a six fingered hand) of Shakespeare's signatures is currently on display at an exhibition entitled 'Shakespeare and London' at the London Metropolitan Archives. I've literally just got back from seeing it, so can tell you that the exhibition also includes a great deal about the area of London where the group (pictured above) are standing and Sam Wanamaker's quite incredible efforts to get the recreated Globe Theatre built. It took over 20 years, but unfortunately, Sam died before he saw it finished.
On Sunday morning I was joined by a group of 6 people to have a look around east London. Alexa was on her third walk with me and brought her parents Caroline and Henry along for the ride. Jeff was visiting from the States and Tommaso and Manuele were both from Italy. Here they are in Hoxton Square, before making our way to Columbia Road flower market.
So, thanks very much for everyone who came on walks this weekend, and to Siti and Maria for bringing a whole bunch of their colleagues out on a Saturday afternoon.
Most international group of friends - Eleni, Vladamir & Stefan
Most likely to cause trouble ... but didn't - Carol
Most Liverpudlian - Ivan
Most 'look-a-likes' in one group - Jeff (Robin Gibb) and Tommaso (an Italian Chris O'Dowd)
Most sensible footwear considering her niece won the 'most unsuitable footwear award' over a year ago - Maria
And a special award to Caroline (and Henry of course) as I'm delighted they were both able to join us for a wander around London.
Six people braved the cold December air to join me on my regular Saturday morning wander from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul's. Seeing as there were two Italians in the group (Annalisa & Miro) it seemed only right that I take a picture of them in Covent Garden, where the 17th Century diarist and ladies man Samuel Pepys watched the Italian puppeteer Pietro Gimonde perform what is now regarded as the first recorded performance of 'Punch and Judy'. It was the 9th May 1662 and every year, on or around this date, Punch and Judy puppeteers descend on Covent Carden in what has become the unofficial, official birthday of Mr Punch. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a pub (hiding behind the Christmas tree in the photo) called the Punch and Judy.
So, here are the group, also including Helen, Gemma, Kirsty and another Helen. There was a double Italian-ness about it really, as the piazza, originally designed by Inigo Jones in the 1630's, was based apparently on a similar one he had seen in Livorno in northern Italy.
There was nothing particularly Italian about the afternoon walk, but I was joined by Lorrie from New York, who had come on the very kind recommendation of a friend of hers Mary (also from America) who had been on a walk with me back in the summer. Thanks Mary. Here is Lorrie outside The George Inn, just off Borough High Street. It was pretty dark by this point, but fortunately my photographer (who comes on most of the walks) had remembered to bring his studio style lights with him.
We managed to fit in quite a few bits n bobs including stopping off at the Rose Theatre (the first Elizabethan theatre on Bankside), the remains of which were uncovered in the 1980's and largely responsible for shaping the current Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Whilst there, we watched a fascinating video narrated by none other than Gandalf (Sir Ian Mckellen) who I discovered today, co-owns The Grapes pub in Limehouse, which is well worth a visit anyway if you happen to be in the area.
Most Physiotherapists in one group ... ever - Saturday morning
Most Italian - Annalisa & Miro (obviously)
Most last minute booking straight off the plane from the States - Lorrie
Weekend roundup - 11th/12th Feb '12
Well, well, well ... what an interesting weekend, with all three London walks taking place and spanning the whole spectrum of Chalker numbers, all of whom courageously braved the near Arctic conditions. Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but Saturday certainly was pretty nippy.
Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
One of the group on Saturday morning was evidently thwarted by TFL and unable to make it, so myself (obviously), Pete, Stacey, Harriet and Emily set off through London's sun-kissed but really, really, really cold streets. Here they are outside Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, rebuilt in 1667.
After managing to drag them away from the warmth of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese's Ye Olde fire I took them to see a bit of 14th Century priory (a Bowl Of Chalk first) that once stretched from Fleet Street all the way down to the Thames and belonged to the Carmelite order known as White Friars. It now sits behind glass looking mildly out of place amongst a plethora of towering modern office buildings.
Pete very kindly wrote a rather lovely review of his experience of the walk (along with loads of photos) on his London-centric blog, the Londoneer.
St Paul's to the Monument
At 2.30pm I met Denise outside St Paul's tube station and off we went because on Saturday afternoon she was the only Chalker. Denise was great company and we basically wandered about Bankside, Borough and Southwark and chatted about stuff, had a coffee in the George Inn next to the fire, no doubt exactly where Charles Dickens sat too and generally mooched around whilst I imparted fascinating snippets of information ... obviously. I would highly recommend other tour guide people to try and entice Denise on to their walks because she is so much fun and an incredibly interesting person too. Here she is outside the re-created Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
My neck of the woods
Sunday moved effortlessly from one extreme to the other with the arrival of the largest ever Bowl Of Chalk group, keen to explore a bit of the east end with me. What a lovely group they were too and featured (amongst others) three generations of one family and a handful of Yeah! Hackney (ers), an online community, discussion forum and news type place started by Emily Webber for people who live and work in Hackney.
Anyway, seeing as it was such a monster group I thought it only fitting that I should take a photo of them standing in front of the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies shop, which I will endeavour to write a small piece about in the not too distant future.
So, there you have it, all that remains are a few awards.
Some Awards (in no particular order)
Smallest ever group - Saturday afternoon (Denise)
Largest ever group - Sunday (see photo above)
Most generations from one family - Ann(e), Karen & Laura
Most Argentinian - Malu and Sol
Best moustache - No winner
Best English accent for a non English speaker - Stacey (Bulgaria) just wins, but Violaine (France) & Maarten (Belgium) are hot on her heels. Theoretically Malu & Sol could also be up for this award, but they've already got one.
Biggest Stik enthusiast - Natalie
Most likely to say 'Yeah, Hackney' - Emily
Thanks once again to everyone who came on walks this weekend.
Chalker Photos from last weekend
Sue, who came on both the weekend walks very kindly sent me a few snaps, which I thought I'd post here. These first two are in St Dunstan-in-the-East, a Wren church that was largely obliterated during the Blitz of 1941, except for the steeple and a few walls. Rather than rebuilding or demolishing completely, it was decided to transform it in to a rather nice walled garden.
Marveling at the George Inn, as mentioned in a previous post.
Thanks to the efforts of Sam Wanamaker, we now have Shakespeare's Globe theatre in all its thatched glory.
A brilliant tourist photo outside St Paul's. Not our Chalkers unfortunately.
Columbia Road flower market on Sunday.
And finally, Sue spots that there's an apostrophe missing in the east end.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.