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.
On Sunday, I had just started the walk with Sarah, Tim and Sue and also Christina and Dave (who came on one of my first ever Saturday morning walks just over a year ago) when we were approached by four others searching for another guided walk, a company who describe themselves as the 'first and best' in London. Well, all I can say is that their loss is my gain, because Dennis and Ann from Canada, Gretchen from Los Angeles and John from Kent joined us and I really enjoyed the walk around the east end.
Here they all are in Hoxton Square. The building behind them is currently occupied by bluu, (one of the many bars in the area) on the site of the home of James Parkinson (1755 - 1824), who aside from a career in medicine was variously a geologist, paleontologist and political activist. He wrote an essay on what he referred to as the 'shaking palsy' and is now more commonly known as 'Parkinson's Disease'. It was his tumultuous political career and activism that lead him to being arrested and questioned about a plot to assassinate King George III (often referred to as 'the mad King'), know as the 'pop gun' plot as it seems the plan had been to use a pop gun to fire a poison dart at the King, thus ending his reign.
Gretchen was keen to see the site of 'The Theatre', so called because, in 1576 it was the first purpose built playhouse in London. The troop who occupied it were called the 'Lord Chamberlain's Men' of which a certain William Shakespeare became an integral member. I know I've mentioned this before, but basically it was the same theatre that in 1599 opened on Bankside as The Globe. They dismantled it and took it over the Thames due to an ongoing feud with the landlord who wanted to get rid of them, but as they owned the building (but not the land) they removed it. Gretchen told us an interesting little snippet of information as to why they were keen to maintain the fabric of the building, which was that the price of oak had soared due to ship building requirements necessary to repel the Spanish Armada. There were two Elizabethan theatres in the vicinity, the other, was The Curtain. Now Great Eastern Street and Old Street are connected by Curtain Road, which during the Victorian period was the hub of the furniture industry and looked like this ...
And now looks a bit like this ...
Sorry, I got distracted. The reason Gretchen was keen to visit the former site of The Theatre, was because she happens to be an author of children's books and has written a book entitled 'All The World's A Stage - A Novel in Five Acts' about a young boy called Kit who as an orphan gets embroiled in to a life of crime at the very same theatre, but gets caught up by the drama on stage and the whole dismantling of the theatre I just mentioned, as well as rubbing shoulders with William Shakespeare himself. You can even watch a nice little trailer for it, if you feel inclined.
Most likely to run 10 miles home - Tim
Best hat - (joint winners) Sarah & Gretchen
Best moustache - No winners
Bowl Of Chalk veterans - Christina & Dave
Most Canadian - Dennis & Ann
Image of Curtain Road courtesy of Hackney Archives Department
Weekend Roundup - 12th/13th May '12
Last weekends London walks got off to a flyer on Saturday morning with a great group who were a mixture of people who had been on previous walks (Nathalie, Tamsin and Rowan), some Americans, Andrew and Sharon (who was visiting London for the first time ever), another, Mary, who had arrived from Boston that morning and hadn't even been to sleep yet (pretty hardcore), some Londoners, two of whom (Elly and Alan) live in Soho so literally just had to step out of the front door to begin the walk, Amy who seemed to have worked at some point in most of the areas we walked through and Luana and Manuela from Brazil.
Covent Garden was overflowing with 'Punch & Judy' performers as it was the annual Maye Fayre and Puppet Festival. I think the main reason being that on the 9th May 1662 a guy called Samuel Pepys recorded in his now rather famous diary that he'd seen his first performance of the show there, so it's regarded as Mr Punch's birthday and a celebration is held as near as possible to that date each year. If you've ever visited, you'll perhaps have noted that there's a pub, also called the Punch & Judy overlooking what was originally intended as the grand entrance to St Paul's church on the west side of Covent Garden piazza.
Here's the group a bit later on standing outside the entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice. If you're wondering why Elly is holding up a pair of pants and Manuela is actually wearing a rather fetching pair of orange undies over her jeans then it's because we encountered an open top bus laden with scantily clad blokes, showering the unsuspecting public with pants. As you do.
Sunday - My neck of the woods
On Sunday for the east end walk, I was joined by a massive group that was also massively international. Out of the seventeen people who came along, only two were English and the rest arrived via France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Holland and the USA.
It was a glorious day for exploring the east end, with Columbia Road flower market in full swing and loads of other fragments of history and bits of street art to uncover along the way.
So, here are the group who I will endeavour to name. Apologies if I've spelt anyones name incorrectly. From left to right - Tim, Ana, Lisa, Eva, Michela, Olga, Sabrina, Esther, Alexandra, Sheila, Bruce, Miguel, Carolin, Kate, John, Marie and Ruth.
Following on from this walk, I also did a special birthday walk for Charlie and her friends, but completely forgot to take a photo. However, thanks incredibly to everyone who came along for walks.
The BOC Trilogy of walks Award - Tamsin and Rowan
Most Eastern european named Portuguese person - Olga
Best moustache - No winners
Highest jumper in a photo - Tim (see above)
Best translator - Alexandra
Most jet lagged - Mary
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
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.