Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The #London Walks Reading List No.2: Vanity Fair

OUR NEW SERIES! Throughout March & April 2015 we'll be compiling our definitive London Reading List. 

We've asked London Walks Guides & London Walkers to recommend a favourite book or story, and we've also raided the archives here at The Daily Constitutional to bring a rich and varied selection of London-themed and London-set reading matter.

Whether you live here in London, work here, play here or if you are in the throws of planning a trip to visit us here, these are the books you need to read. As usual, you can give us a shout with your own recommendations – thrillers, literary classics, biographies, anthologies, anything! – at the usual email address, via Twitter or Facebook, or simply leave a comment below.







No.2. Vanity Fair 
by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848)

William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece has been compared to Tolstoy in its ambitious scope. And ambition fires the book’s anti-heroine, the thrusting Becky Sharp.

If Thackeray hasn’t written the greatest English novel of all, then he has surely created the nastiest piece of work in the canon in Miss Sharp. Her scramble up the greasy pole of wealth and celebrity makes the soap divas of the 1980’s look like so many maiden aunts at the proverbial vicarage tea party.

Second best character? London herself, from Chiswick to Russell Square, the capital of the early 19th Century is portrayed in memorable detail.



Visit Thackeray Street on the Kensington Walk.









On Tuesdays our blog posts support the charity Missing People


Thousands of people in the UK are searching for a missing loved one. Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears.


 Support Missing People at www.missingpeople.org.uk    

Follow Missing People on Twitter @missingpeople





Call the helpline on 116 000





A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.









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A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of #London No.18: #Greenwich, Metroland & Velvet



Our new series for 2015 is drawing to a close! Daily Constitutional editor Adam takes us on a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London – 20 stops on a metropolis-wide search for all things illustrated. 

He'll be taking in everything from Gillray and Hogarth, to Scooby Doo and on to Deadpool and beyond! In addition he'll guide you to the best in London comic book stores as well as galleries that showcase the best in the cartoonist's art. 




Panel 18: Metroland & Velvet

A few weeks ago I blogged about Orbital Comics on this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London. Oribital is my regular Wednesday haunt and the guys have kindly added a couple of recommendations to our tour. Their first was The Wicked + the Divine (catch up with that post HERE), and here are two more beginning with the glorious Metroland.



Camilla at Orbital made this a personal recommendation – an indie comic set in London, Metroland is described by the publisher as "a soap opera of music and time travel". A perfect description, this: what great band story isn't a soap opera? And in a field such a pop, which is constantly drawing on its own past, time travel is not only a perfect metaphor for the modern music business, but also a fun device to create a world where Kurt Cobain and John Lennon are still among us. Smart and fun – everybody strives to be that. Metroland gets there without breaking a sweat.

Created by Ricky Miller (words) and Julia Scheele (art), the series is currently on issue 2 and is peppered with great London locations, not least the view from Greenwich (with a lovely literary allusion in the speech bubble, Du Maurier fans!)…




(The line is an echo of the famous opener of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca – "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…" We discussed Daphne Du Maurier's grandfather,George Du Maurier, and his contribution to the world of cartoons in an earlier post HERE.)


The indie band in our tale – Electric Dreams – live in a small castle in Greenwich…



The "small castle" in question is in fact Vanbrugh Castle, designed by architect and dramatist John Vanbrugh (1664 – 1726). I can almost feel the moment when inspiration struck Ms Scheele (or, indeed, Mr Miller), beholding the almost-Gothic, mediaeval-inspired pile at Maze Hill and thinking, "THAT would make a fine hideout in a comic book!"

Westminster is also featured, alongside City and Docklands locations, but my personal favourite panel of all is in Issue 2 wherein Kathy loses her job and trudges across London Bridge…




… travelling the "wrong" way, i.e. away from conformity, away from the 9 to 5. We can see the crowds thronged in the background, part of the more-than-quarter-million-strong workforce of the City, all heading north. Crossing southward over London Bridge is one of my favourite London journeys and it is captured beautifully here. 

Metroland is my new favourite comic.


Metroland is Published by Avery Hill and you can buy the first two issues from the Avery Hill website averyhillpublishing.bigcartel.com/

Julia Scheele's website, featuring originals for sale and details of how to commission her work, is here: www.juliascheele.co.uk

Here's how to find Vanbrugh Castle…




A London bridge also features in issue no.1 of Orbital's third and final recommendation, Velvet by Brubaker & Epting…




… a cold-war thriller bursting with 60's-inspired gadgets, guns and gear. 




(Is that Battersea Bridge? Looks like it – if you can correct me, drop me a line.)



The guys at Orbital say: "Focusing on the British intelligence agency in the 1960s, Velvet is the story of the quiet secretary whose mysterious past as top field agent comes to light as she is framed by her superiors and is forced to go on the run."

Velvet is published by Image Comics imagecomics.com


Thanks to all at Orbital for the recommendations! It's Tuesday as I blog this so tomorrow is new comics day – go and see the guys at Orbital!




Adam adds… My Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London is almost at a close, we've visited nigh-on 20 London locations and I realise that we haven't even scratched the surface. Moreover, I've had a great deal of fun collating the series. So… when the series ends at Panel 20, I'll be copying each instalment over on to a standalone blog and I'll add to them from time-to time – please feel free to join in! If you have a favourite London comic or cartoon, do drop me a line at the usual address.

Panel 19 will feature From Hell and in Panel 20 we'll bid farewell (for the time being) with some great cartoonist commemorations in London. 
 
Maybe one day I might even get around to adding a Cartoonists Walk to the London Walks repertoire. 


Thanks for reading!





On Tuesdays our blog posts support the charity Missing People


Thousands of people in the UK are searching for a missing loved one. Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears.


 Support Missing People at www.missingpeople.org.uk    

Follow Missing People on Twitter @missingpeople





Call the helpline on 116 000








A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.









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Streets Ahead: Us & Them

Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen and Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker





If you're reading this, well, we'd like to tap you. Invite you to be one of us. Rather than one of them.

Tapped. You know, being tapped – chosen – to join one of those secret societies, one of those elect, elite socities – clubs, really – at an American Ivy League university. Difference is we have a better class of clientele. We wouldn't let Dubya, for example, through the door. 

Being tapped – joining us, being a London Walker – means you get to see all kinds of things – neat things, fun things, interesting things, satisfying-to-know things – the "them" don't get to see.

Take Hampstead Tube station, for example…



Them thinks it's a ho hum. 

Us knows better. And sees better, sees more. Sees a feast more, a phantasmagoria more. 

Them sees only about a tenth of what us sees. And, yup, it's the ho hum tenth that them sees. 

Them's not seeing the Nelson column detail. Or the bomb shelter. Or the significance of – how to *read* – the glazed terracotta. Or the signage decoded (that yellow one just to the right of the entrance, for example). Or the Toast. Or the barre (and the dancers that go with it). Or the award-winning garden. Or Mary and her mates (yes, those are real people – fellow human beings with interesting back stories, interesting lives – who work there, who keep a century-and-change old place alive and vibrant and good to visit, even just passing through). Or the 320. Or the Welsh wizard. Or the station safe. Or the connection with the landmark building over the way. Or the Mr. Spock connection. Or the iceberg

And that's not to mention the Arts & Craft fixtures and fittings in the booking hall. Look, do yourself a favour: LOOK. They're very beautiful, very graceful. Life enhancing. 

Counting, the them percentage – saying they see 1/10th of what we see – is putting it generously. It's more like six* percent. And yeah, sure, you only see six percent of a place...that's blinders on, that's tunnel vision, that's a big steaming heap of ho hum. Lucky them [smug alert, here]. 

Skimming off the smug I'm still left with an honest-to-goodness: rather them than me. Or us.

Or, if you prefer, there but for the grace of London Walks go I. 

Phew! 

And that's just a few seconds of a London Walks guide flinging out a couple of handfuls of bon bons before his Hampstead walk starts. Some hors-d'oeuvres.

Us and them? Not quite. It should be: Us or them?

No contest I'd say. 

*.666 to be exact. And no, let's not go there. 







On Tuesdays our blog posts support the charity Missing People



Thousands of people in the UK are searching for a missing loved one. Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears.


 Support Missing People at www.missingpeople.org.uk    

Follow Missing People on Twitter @missingpeople





Call the helpline on 116 000









A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.









Bookmark and Share

Monday, 2 March 2015

The #London Walks Reading List No.1: James Bond & Moonraker



OUR NEW SERIES! Throughout March & April 2015 we'll be compiling our definitive London Reading List. 

We've asked London Walks Guides & London Walkers to recommend a favourite book or story, and we've also raided the archives here at The Daily Constitutional to bring a rich and varied selection of London-themed and London-set reading matter.

Whether you live here in London, work here, play here or if you are in the throws of planning a trip to visit us here, these are the books you need to read. As usual, you can give us a shout with your own recommendations – thrillers, literary classics, biographies, anthologies, anything! – at the usual email address, via Twitter or Facebook, or simply leave a comment below.




First contribution is from D.C editor Adam…







No. 1. MOONRAKER by Ian Fleming (1955)

The jet set nature of James Bond’s remit means that those looking for London settings in the novels of Ian Fleming must make do with fleeting glimpses of St James’s (his club), Regent’s Park (his “office”) and King’s Road (his apartment) before he sets off for adventures in climes exotic.

The exception is Moonraker: the third Bond novel is set entirely in England.


In pursuit of Hugo Drax, a megalomaniac would-be dictator, arms manufacturer and (worst of all in M’s book) card cheat, Bond gambles, drinks and takes amphetamines in St James’s, meets with Assistant Commissioner Vallance at Scotland Yard and prangs his vintage Bentley in the prosaic surroundings of the capital's South Circular ring road. He later road tests his new motor, a four-and-a-half litre 1953 Bentley Mark VI on Birdcage Walk SW1.

Drax remains one of Fleming’s best villains; Bond is at his most bullet-proof in this tale, bouncing back from the events of the previous assignment (Live and Let Die); and the glimpses behind the mask of M bring one of popular fiction’s most enigmatic supporting characters leaping from the page. But it is perhaps the behind-the-scenes look at Pall Mall’s club land that holds the most delicious London detail – Fleming makes for a fine tour guide.

(Fleming often functioned thus – his descriptions of air travel throughout the books seem stultifying to the modern reader, but when they were published they provided an astonishing glimpse of the good life to the post-war and thoroughly earthbound thriller reader.

It also features my favourite line in all of the James Bond canon – books and movies included. After a particularly heavy night, Bond groans: "Champagne and benzedrine. Never again!"








A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.









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