Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Hardest London Quiz in the World EVER

Last chance to have a crack at our London Walks annual quiz. Due to unprecedented demand, we’ve posted it here one last time in all four parts – click on the images to enlarge them. It’s the fiendish work of Nick. He’s the London Walks guide who sets it. Have fun. (Answers posted in the week ahead.)









If you want to take umbrage with Nick in person, head along to his regular Knightsbridge Pubs and Greenwich walks.

Hear him read from the London Walks Book HERE

See him in action HERE

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A Letter from the Mothership

Dear LW Bloggers,


David here, the London Walks Pen.

Just a few lines today on my pet subject: Guiding. Great Guiding.

The Blog's got all these balls in the air going on the blog. The occasional series: plaque of the week, the London Monopoly board, etc.

Thinking about it, my (David's) occasional, serial ruminations on what London Walks guides bring to the party, what we want in a guide, what makes a great guide, why "London Walks guides do it best", etc. have become yet another constellation moving, at fairly regular intervals, across the firmament of the London Walks Blog.

And here's another sighting. I call it the Blue Plaque test. Goes without saying that a guide's just pointing out a blue plaque and reading the inscription to his or her guidees doesn't make the grade. Who needs to have a blue plaque pointed out? Who can't read for himself what the inscription says? I suppose the knock offs' "justification" is, "well, it's all in the route - had it not been for the route I've [sic] fashioned ['fashioned' is usually disingenuous; more often than not the mot juste is 'copied' - as in 'went incognito on the London Walks walk and copied their route'] the people on this tour wouldn't have come here to see this plaque".

Which gets a sad shake of the head. No, that's not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

Reading from a plaque is not wide reading. It's not research. It's not London Walks muzzle loading velocity.

On the contrary - very very contrary - we're looking for something like this: it's from one of Medical Officer of Health John's Simon's reports. Reports aimed at making complacent Aldermen squirm. In short, reports aimed at making a difference.

Here's what Simon wrote, "Let the educated man devote an hour to visiting some very poor area in the metropolis. Let him fancy what it would be to himself to live there, in that beastly degradation of stink, fed with such bread, drinking such water...Let him talk to the inmates, let him hear what is thought of the bone-boiler next door, what of the Irish basketmakers upstairs - twelve in a room; what of the artisan's dead body, stretched on his widow's one bed, beside her living children".

Prose like that is a door into Simon's world, his day and age, his fight. So much for the ho hum of the plaque's wording: "pioneer of public health".

See you out there

David


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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Knightsbridge Extra Part Two

Nick's Knightsbridge Pubs walk visits three pubs with a bit of walking and talking between. Amazingly, he and his walkers have been invited into no less than four homes over the years he's been doing it! "I'll never forget the birthday party in Rutland Mews," he says, "Everybody got a drink and they made it hard for us to leave!"

The walk is packed with anecdote, and there's not enough time to properly embrace the eclectic history of Avenue Studios, hidden off the Fulham Road, so Nick thought it might be a good idea to go into a bit more detail here on the London Walks Blog. here's the man himself:

“The studios were originally the mews to Onslow Square and were converted into live/work studios for artists in the middle of the nineteenth century. They have since housed a fascinating mix of residents…

John Singer Sargent used a studio here for more than twenty years. He lent it briefly to Whistler in early 1896. The large studio space here afforded him the privacy that eluded him at his home half a mile away. Here Sargent could spread out and paint the murals for the Boston Public Library which wouldn't fit at all in his home studio in Tite Street. At Avenue Studios he constructed a framework to duplicate the barreled vault of the Library and which would hold the canvases in their concave shape. In that same studio, by a strange coincidence, another Emma Sergeant (note the different spelling) now lives and works, producing large scale canvases of extraordinary robust beauty. Emma is renowned for her surrealist portraits and figurative paintings. She shot to international prominence when, as a 21 year old student, she won the National Portrait Gallery Prize. Since then she has painted Sir Laurence Olivier, Imran Khan, and Jeremy Paxman. She was also the official tour artist for the Prince of Wales in the mid-1990s

In Studio no.8 Alfred Gilbert worked on his most famous sculpture, the Shaftesbury Memorial, commonly known as Eros which was completed in 1893. A nude figure on a public monument was controversial at the time, but it was well received by the public. It was the first statue in the world to be cast in aluminium and while generally believed to depict Eros, it was intended to be an image of his twin brother, Anteros, who as 'The God of Selfless Love' was deemed an appropriate monument to the philanthropic 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. The model for the sculpture was Gilbert's sixteen year-old studio assistant.

Avenue Studios was also home to John Gilroy, an artist who might have been sad to know that he would be best remembered now as the creator of the iconic Guinness toucan. His first known Guinness poster was produced in 1930 and he went on to produce nearly 50 poster designs for Guinness over 35 years. His animals, including a lion, toucan, gnu and kangaroo, appeared, with their long-suffering zookeeper, on posters, press advertisements, show cards and waiter trays from the 1930s to the 1960s.


Only recently a magnificent two bedroomed home (illustrated above) comprising two studios in this quiet and secluded haven of studios went on the market for five and a half million pounds!”

Join Nick on Friday at 7pm for the Knightsbridge Pubs walk. Meet at South Kensington Station at 7pm.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A Walk Good Enough to Eat

There’s Alphonse the waiter once more (illustrated, left). And here’s Ann, “the Helen Mirren of London Walks” on Meryl Streep… as well as French cooking and the secret of living to 91 years old…


“Meryl Streep has just received a Golden Globe for her role as American TV chef Julia Child in the film Julie and Julia. This recounts keen amateur cook Julie’s battle to cook her way through Julia’s butter and cream laden magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This book must still, after 40 years, be the most comprehensive guide in English to French cooking – 13 pages devoted to making omelettes, for example, four pages on how to prepare a mushroom.

Julia’s own account of those years in France that set her on the gourmet path was published here recently (My Life in France, by Julia Child). She describes in mouth-watering detail her first meal in La Couronne in Rouen. The Dover sole arrived, brown and sizzling – ‘I chewed slowly. It was a morsel of perfection.’

Julia set out to become an accomplished cook and creator of recipes–she spent hours researching mayonnaise, then made it so many times that she and her husband couldn’t face it any longer – ‘and I took to dumping test batches down the toilet.’ There was the quest for the real bouillabaisse recipe – until she knew far better than the fishwives, chefs and gourmets of Marseilles what the authentic bouillabaisse should be – a base of garlic, onions, tomatoes, saffron, fennel, thyme, bay, olive oil, with lean fish –some firm fleshed, some soft, and shell fish.

Julia died at the age of 91, so cholesterol was presumably not a problem for her. Take this description of how to create Sole Normande – poach half a pound of sole in white wine and stock. To make the sauce, reduce cooking liquid, then add one cup of cream, 3 egg yolks - and ¾ lb of butter.

No wonder the last scene in the film shows Julie visiting the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian, and leaving her tribute – a pound pack of butter.

And for more foodie titbits, join my next Foodie Walk - 10 am on Saturday January 30 at Monument tube, Fish St. Hill exit.”

For a YouTube preview of Ann’s Foodie Walks, click HERE


EXTRA… For a special treat, before you go on Ann’s walk, why not sample her Collected Works. Over at The Mothership, David has collated some of Ann’s unique, enlightening and wonderfully eccentric LW Blog gems all in one place. So now you don’t have to get indegestion racing all around the Blog Archive to gobble them all up. They’re HERE. Served up with some great pics, too. Enjoy…

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The Hardest London Quiz in the World EVER (Part Four)

The fourth and final part of the annual London Walks Quiz. Hard, isn’t it? Too hard? Just plain annoying?

Blame that bloody Nick. He’s the London Walks guide who sets it. In fact, you can buttonhole him in person THIS FRIDAY on his Knightsbridge Pubs walk.

Answers to all four parts will now be posted next week. (Click the image below to enlarge.)




Hear Nick read from the London Walks Book by clicking HERE

See him in action HERE

Catch-up with the other three parts of The Hardest London Quiz in the World EVER on the Blog Archive on the right-hand column of this Blog.


POST UPDATED 27/3/16

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 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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