I didn't write my 'weekend roundup' last week, so will make amends now, especially after we've had two nice and sunny weekends in a row. I met some lovely people this weekend, all keen to explore London, beginning on Saturday morning with Kristina and Barbara from Germany and Austria and Cheryl and her mum (or mom) Susan from Los Angeles. It was Susan's first time in London and in fact first trip out if the U.S. Here they are posing with one of London's iconic red telephone boxes, just off Fleet Street in the City of London. I hadn't noticed when I took the photo that someone has written 'The witch is dead' across the top of the phone box ... it was pointed out by Kristina I think, and must be a remnant from Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year, as the cortege made its way straight past there on its way to St Paul's cathedral.
The walk on Saturday afternoon had a distinct north American feel to it, with the exception of Kirsten & Stephen who were visiting from Scotland. Here they all are nearing the end of our wander outside The George Inn, just off Borough High Street in Southwark. Dating back to 1676, the George is the only galleried Inn left in London and is owned by the National Trust.
Sunday morning was a smallish group that aside from visitors from Canada and Denmark included three locals. We finished up in Spitalfields, where I took the below photo of the group as we walked down Wilkes Street, before finishing up outside Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christchurch.
Person who lived nearest to the walk start point - Rachael
Youngest - Bella
Most jet lagged - Larry & Shari
Most rhyming named couple - Larry & Shari
Best moustache - No winners
If you're wandering around Mayfair and Piccadilly, which as I've mentioned before has a reasonably high concentration of pretty swish shops and certainly quite a few that hold Royal Warrants, then you might find yourself in what is the longest covered shopping street in Britain. It's called the Burlington Arcade and has been providing the discerning and generally wealthy customer with antiques and silver, jewellery and watches, shoes, perfumes and fashion accessories since 1819.
Like a lot of places in London, there is often a story attached, and the Burlington Arcade is no exception. The Royal Academy of Arts is now next door, occupying a rather grand building called Burlington House, which gets its name from Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Burlington who bought it in the 17th century. It was a much later occupant, Lord George Cavendish, who in the early 19th century reputedly got so fed up with people throwing rubbish from the adjoining street in to his garden, that he decided to cover the entire street. He did also state that the newly covered street should also be "for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females", which strikes me as being somewhat ambiguous.
Either way I can only surmise that Lord George Cavendish was a bit of a worrier and perhaps a bit of a kill joy. My reason for thinking this (aside from the fact that he covered the whole street in the first place), is because he also employed some former members of the Cavendish family's regiment, the 10th Hussars to act as a sort of police force on his covered shopping street. In fact, you can still see them there today (different guys obviously) dressed in Edwardian frock coats and top hats, forming what is apparently the smallest private police force in existence. You can see one of them on the above photo, his back turned, looking down the arcade. They're known as Beadles and still uphold the rules and regulations of the arcade, so if you do happen to go, remember ... no whistling, no open umbrellas, no singing or playing of musical instruments, definitely don't even think about carrying a large parcel and please, please, please ... no babies' prams thank you very much. Oh yes, there's no running either.
As you walk in, you'll notice that there are a couple of rather sturdy looking bollards in the centre of both entrances. They're a reasonably new addition in the grand scheme of things, another security measure, added in 1964 after six masked men drove straight down the arcade in a Jaguar Mark 10, smashed in to a jewellery shop, stole £35,000 worth of bling and drove off again and were never caught. The funny thing about this incident is that it's mentioned in various sources and the car is always, without fail described as a 'Jaguar Mark 10'. Now I've just done it. I know nothing about cars, but evidently this piece of information seems to be of vital importance to everyone and I doubt if it had been ... I don't know ... a Fiesta, it would get mentioned quite so much. Therefore I wonder whether it's because it was a swish car (I'm assuming it was) and that in itself is unusual, or whether the car could accommodate six fully grown men that is so startling. I have no idea.
Either way, it's not particularly important, so I'll end by saying that if you are in the vicinity, then check out the Burlington Arcade and if you're feeling particularly mischievous, then why not see what happens if you whistle, or run. You could even go all out and play a musical instrument. Once you've been swiftly ejected, then head along to the Royal Academy of Arts, and there under the arched entrance you'll find a rather unusual thing ... a wooden telephone box. It's one of the original prototypes known as the K2 telephone box, made in the 1920's and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. I think three were made and placed discreetly around to see how the public got on with them after a competition had been set to find a new design for the now iconic red telephone box. Just thought I'd mention it.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.