London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

London Life

Despite studying to become a London guide I haven’t been enjoying London as much as I should have over the past few months as have been cooped up at home revising. However last weekend I got right back into the thick of it and have been celebrating living in London

I found out at late notice about a free event on Friday night at the Wellcome Collection in Euston Road called Quacks and Cures. Myself and my friend S started off the evening with a cheap veggie curry in Drummond Street (just behind Euston Square tube) and when we arrived at the Wellcome Collection the place was buzzing. Our visit started with a lecture by Ben Goldacre who writes the Bad Science column in the Guardian. I confess I had never heard of Ben but my friend S was keen to hear him. We had to queue for 20 minutes to get a seat but it was worth it. The talk was entitled “The Placebo Effect” and was very interesting and thought provoking.

We then had a look around some of the exhibits in the Museum and the permanent collection which were fascinating although I did wonder whether the old fashioned prosthetic limbs and bottles of preserved organs would be featuring in my dreams that night. We stopped to look at some live leeches but I didn’t get too close as slimy animals aren’t my favourites. However I was completely unaware that they have found their way back into use today as part of plastic and reconstructive surgery.

After a restorative tonic in the cafe we went home.

Saturday I was a volunteer host for another medically connected event – a visit to The Old Operating Theatre Museum just south of London Bridge. Visiting this museum is like going back in time. You go up a winding wooden staircase as if you are going up Rapunzel’s Tower. When you reach the top you are in an old fashioned museum that doesn’t take credit cards (so I unfortunately had to go back down, to the bank and then up again to get enough money to pay for 10 people). We sat in the old operating theatre and watched a demonstration (without the actual cutting obviously) of an amputation with a live volunteer. The surgeon at the time back in the mid 19th Century had perfected his technique and got it down to a record 27 seconds. Just as well as there were no anaesthetics. It’s amazing how the population ever survived as there was absolutely no thought of hygiene. No hands or surgical coats were ever washed so the person being operated on at the end of the day would be contaminated with every other patient’s germs and had little chance of survival.

The London Bridge Festival was happening last weekend and on my way across the bridge in the morning I’d witnessed Freemen of the City of London exercising their right (after a substantial donation to the Lord Mayor of London’s charity) to drive sheep across London Bridge. I had intended to have a proper look at the stalls on my way back north. However the first stall I came to was manned by the City of London Guides Association and I knew several of the people on the stall from my Westminster and Foundation Guiding courses. A walk was just about to set off so as I had nothing planned I joined the group.

When I worked at More London (near City Hall) I did a lot of exploring in the area. This part of Southwark is one of my favourite parts of London as it has so many surprises. On Saturday’s walk I learnt that several hundred years ago the City of London extended several miles into Southwark, evidence of which can be seen on a gravestone in the Cathedral garden. On our walk we went down many alleyways and through busy Borough Market (and unfortunately lost quite a few of the group) and I discovered a few more interesting pubs to add to my collection. We visited one of the alcoves from the old London Bridge which can be seen in the grounds of Guy’s Hospital and we also saw the final resting place of Thomas Guy. The evening finished with a couple of drinks in one of the aforementioned pubs.

Next weekend I will be BookCrossing in Hampstead and watching the latest Harry Potter whilst dressed as Professor Trelawney. Details soon.