Ten years on from qualifying as a City of Westminster Guide I wouldn’t have imagined that one of my most successful walks would be in Walthamstow. I’m sure that many of my social media followers are beginning to despair that I will ever do a walk again that’s not in this area.*
I started leading walks in Walthamstow back in 2012 as part of the Appetite Festival which was organised by the same people who organise the excellent E17 Art Trail (2019 details here). Since then my Walthamstow walk has changed substantially and to be honest changes each time I do it as I find out something new. My research now is an ongoing (and rather obsessive) process. I am currently spending rather a lot of time researching one of the many occupants of the house in the picture below.
When I started guiding I confess that I probably didn’t know each area in detail but now see the error of my ways. It would however be impossible to know the full history of any area and researching for the walk I am doing this Saturday 30th March as part of Walthamstow Notes has introduced me to a side of the area I had never considered before – Walthamstow’s musical heritage in the period after the arrival of the railways.
On my regular ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam’ walk I explain that the arrival of the railways with the accompanying cheap workmen’s fares was a catalyst for a lot of the rich people moving out. Edward Lloyd whose children bequeathed what is now the William Morris Gallery and the surrounding park to the people of Walthamstow moved his family to Westminster in 1885. He believed there wouldn’t be enough suitable companions for his growing family. William Morris himself was also quite scathing about Walthamstow. In a letter of 1883 Morris said the area was “… once a pleasant place enough but now terribly cocknified and choked up by the jerry builder”.
Having said that going back further into the history of Walthamstow there are many rich people who wanted to help the less fortunate of the area – George Monoux being the most famous one but there are many other benefactors who left money to improve the lives of the poor.
Then I was introduced to John Francis Holcombe Read, a composer whose name already existed in my notes as he had built the Victoria Hall which was on the site of what is now Mirth Marvel and Maud. He spent his own money to build this hall partly so his composition ‘Harold’ could be performed!
Here was a man who had moved to Walthamstow after the arrival of the railways. He had made several fortunes as a City stockbroker but he was very much involved in music too being a musician and composer. Much of the money he had made in the City was spent in Walthamstow improving the cultural lives of the residents. When I started digging deeper I found he was connected to many cultural societies in Walthamstow and further afield. If you know where to look his name is everywhere!
To find out more about Mr J F H Read as he is more commonly known and the Walthamstow of his time why not come along on my walk this Saturday 30th March. Tickets are free this time but please book as I do have to put a limit on numbers. As mentioned above this is part of Walthamstow Notes a day of free music and talks taking place both at Read’s former house, Chestnuts House and Vestry House Museum.
The walk starts from Chestnuts House at 398 Hoe Street but do please book your place in advance via this link
* I do have a couple of walks outside Waltham Forest coming up – A Drinking History of Clerkenwell on both Tuesday 2nd April and Easter Monday 22nd April. Details of these and all my upcoming walks can be found here
I have recently become rather obsessed with old guide books and in fact have a backlog of ideas for posts taking excerpts from such books as they contain so much of interest.
My latest purchase was last night at Chingford Historical Society’s monthly meeting. My purchase was the Summer 1962 and Summer 1963 editions of ‘Walthamstow Matters – A review of local affairs past and present’.
These were issued by Walthamstow Borough Council a couple of years before the creation of the London Borough of Waltham Forest in 1965.
Today a booklet like this would probably be overlooked but these two publications have a wealth of interesting information of what life was like in Walthamstow in the early 1960s.
There was an amazing amount of entertainment being provided by the Council as can be seen on the programme below from the 1962 booklet. There is similar going on in 1963. Modern dancing every Saturday, weekly ‘Funtime’ for children, leading bands and artistes playing every Sunday and variety entertainment every Saturday night too at both the Assembly Hall and the now long gone Lloyd Park Pavilion.
On the opposite page is an advert inviting people to lend their money to the council with a minimum investment of £100 at an interest rate of 6.5%.
Scrolling through the section entitled ‘You and Your Rates” I found this gem:
“When you consider that for a house with a rateable value of £26 you will pay less than 14s per week – the price of four packets of 20 cigarettes (and without any cancer content) – the value received seems pretty good.”
The same issues then as now:
“The Council have considered the implications of installing parking meters but have decided against erecting them. The problem of car parking for shopping and commercial purposes and outside private houses is no nearer solution.“
About the proposed Victoria Line:
“The Victoria Line which will complete the development at the corner of Hoe Street and High Street is still in a state of ‘suspended inanimation’ and has now become enmeshed in railway reorganisation generally under the guidance of Dr Beeching. The London Transport Executive have decided, however, that because of technical difficulties which have become more apparent since the electrification of the Liverpool Street to Chingford Line, the Victoria Line should terminate underneath, and be linked with, Hoe Street Station and not at Wood Street Station. There will be a saving of £1,000,000 in the capital cost. The Council have accepted the position for the time being but are seeking an interview with the Minister of Transport to find out his intentions about constructing the Victoria Line and to make sure he does not lop off any more of the line.”
And on traffic jams:
“The Ministry of Transport’s answer to the traffic problems at the Crooked Billet is – traffic lights are no solution, there must be a large ground level roundabout, and a flyover above – all very expensive. The roundabout will come first …”
Thankfully the flyover never arrived.
I am sure I have read something recently about alternatives to the borough’s name of Waltham Forest and the 1963 publication has a list of some of the contenders. I rather like Waltham on (or by) the Lea but am so pleased they didn’t choose Walchingley.
Lastly within these two booklets is lots of very interesting local history information which I will be reading avidly. The detail is thorough which is just what I want. No doubt some of this content will end up in one of my local walks!
Join me on my best selling Walthamstow walk ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam’ tomorrow, 19th January 2019, with the next one after that on Sunday 10th February. Find out more here
There is one building that really stands out on my Christmas Lights walk and for many of those on my walk not only is the look of the building a surprise to them but if we manage to get there at the right time they will be treated to a carillon recital too.
This wonderfully decorated building on the corner of Burlington Gardens and Old Bond Street looks like it has been transported from Belgium or the Netherlands.
It was purpose built for J & E Atkinson perfumers in 1926 when their previous premises on the same site burned down. The business was founded in 1799 by James Atkinson in Cumberland and had moved south firstly to Gerrard Street Soho before settling in Burlington Gardens, Mayfair. Their speciality was rose scented bear grease balm which was a mixture of unmentionable ingredients and perfume and was used by bald men to supposedly make their hair grow. It was thought that as bears were hairy that this would in turn work on men! Their other specialities included a perfume made from the flowers in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet and the Oddfellow’s Bouquet being a favourite of Lawrence of Arabia. The shop was well known and in fact was included in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway.
When their previous premises burned down Atkinsons decided to outshine their competitors with their new building. Their rivals were operating from ordinary, formerly residential buildings. Atkinson’s new home was built by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris most of whose other work is so different it’s hard to believe it’s the same architect. Emanuel Vincent Harris also built Manchester Central Library, Kensington Central Library and the Ministry of Defence, the latter being described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as a ‘monument of tiredness’! Pevsner is more complimentary about 24 Old Bond Street describing it as ‘a successful freak … the design is nice, and one gets used to it’. The coloured panels were carved by Nathaniel Hitch after designs by George Kruger Grey.
Within the spirelet or flèche on top of the building is housed a carillon, the only one in London. This musical instrument is played from the loft of the building and the frame holding the bells takes up the entire space within the spirelet.
A carillon consists of a number of bells played via a console/keyboard. There are 15 carillons in the British Isles but only one in London. This instrument which is made up of 23 bells was built by Gillett and Johnston who are still in business today. Looking at the British Carillon Society’s website I’ve found this wonderful video showing exactly how a carillon is played. The carillon in this film is in St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co. Cork and consists of 49 bells the largest in the British Isles. As Adrian Gebruers, the carillonneur says the first requirement is to be able to climb a lot of stairs the Cobh one being a climb of 200! This video of the carillon in Bournville shows it can be a bit of a workout to play too and shows the variety of pieces that can be performed. Here the carillonneur Trevor Workman is playing Abba’s Super Trouper. Lastly here is a wonderful film from British Pathé in 1948 showing Atkinson’s Carillon being played by the only woman carillonneur at the time.
Unfortunately the brand of Atkinsons practically disappeared after the Second World War and went through a number of owners. However the brand re-emerged in 2013 and now trades from Burlington Arcade a minute’s walk from the Old Bond Street site. They proudly claim they were founded in 1799 and again sell the Nuptial and Oddfellow’s Bouquet perfume but thankfully not the bear grease.
I have been leading my Christmas Lights walks for quite a few years now and it is always a wonderful surprise to find that the carillon is being played during my walk. It is so Christmassy!
Why not join me this Saturday 15th December 2018 when myself and fellow guide Ray Coggin will be leading a special charity Christmas Lights walk raising funds for the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans.
If all goes according to plan there will be a practice session on the carillon during Saturday’s walk – but believe me you wouldn’t realise it was not an actual recital. The walk takes in the best Christmas lights of the West End, the best shop window displays, the history of Christmas food, cards, trees etc and of course there will be a mince pie or two. All we’re asking is a minimum donation of £10 per person. We’ve raised £145 so far and have 10 people booked on the walk but there’s room for a few more. This is one of my favourite walks and having the carillon being played is definitely a bonus. Find out more about the walk and the charity and how to book your place here.
There will also be a carillon practice during my Foodie themed Christmas Lights walk on Tuesday 18th December. Details of this and all my other public walks can be found here.
From now until Christmas:
Friday 14th 7.00-7.30pm
Saturday 15th 3.00-3.30pm
Sunday 16th 4.00-4.30pm
Friday 21st 7.00-7.30pm
Sunday 23rd 4.00-4.30pm
Tuesday 11th 7.15-8.15pm
Saturday 15th 6.00-7.15pm
Tuesday 18th 7.15-8.15pm
Saturday 22nd 6.45-7.45pm
Sunday 23rd 6.00-7.15pm
Helen Oddfellow is a tour guide and an expert on Christopher Marlowe. After a local paper features her Deptford walk she is contacted by historian Richard Watson who needs her help in his quest to track down a supposed lost Marlowe manuscript. My initial thought was I wish something exciting like that would happen to me but I soon changed my mind as the story became a terrifying nightmare for Helen and I no longer wanted to be in her shoes.
The story starts with a horrific murder of an (as yet) unidentified man outside a pub in Deptford and then goes back to tell the story starting from two weeks before the attack. So although we knew what was going to happen it still came as a shock to me, maybe because I identified so much with Helen who seemed to share some of my characteristics which was a bit unnerving!
In the second part of the book Helen continues with her quest to find the truth about the manuscript the plot of which would have ramifications on history as we know it and to escape those who are determined that the truth shouldn’t emerge.
There are many separate strands to this story and it is one of those books that is very hard to put down. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it and wondering what would happen next and how all the strands would tie up.
As real places and historical figures are used in the story I found it to be extremely believable and this probably made it all the more terrifying. It was very difficult to know just who you should trust.
There has been lots of speculation over Christopher Marlowe’s murder in real life and although this was fiction it did make me stop and think. This is definitely a book that will stay with me and I hope to read more of Anna Sayburn Lane’s books in the future.
If I was leaving this review on a book review website I would give it 5 stars out of 5
Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane was published in October 2018
I was given a complimentary copy of the book via Footprints of London and the above is my honest review
Have you ever noticed that the sign hanging outside Twinings’ shop on the Strand shows that it sells coffee as well as tea?
In fact Twinings started off as a coffee house and if it wasn’t for a recession in weaving in Gloucestershire the business may not have been established at all.
Thomas Twining founder of the business was born in Painswick, Gloucestershire in 1675. His father Daniel was a weaver; in fact for many generations the Twining family had been weavers in that same area. The family had been based in Painswick for many hundreds of years. Before that they came from Twyning near Tewkesbury (pronounced Twinning).
Daniel obviously wanted his sons to follow him into this business but the recession hit and in 1684 he made the decision to move to London. The family settled in St Giles Cripplegate.
Daniel’s eldest son also called Daniel started an apprenticeship with a weaver and on becoming a freeman of the City of London took on a job as a lace weaver. His younger brother Thomas was then apprenticed to him. Following Daniel Jr’s death in 1695 Thomas was then apprenticed to Daniel’s former master John Dowse.
Thomas had started his apprenticeship at age 19 which may seem rather old. It is thought that this was to enable him to become a freeman as without such an attribute he would be unable to follow any trade within the City walls.
In 1701 Thomas attained this and started working for Thomas D’Aeth a wealthy East Indian merchant based in Cripplegate and Philpot Lane.
5 years later he had acquired enough business knowledge to set up by himself and took over management of Tom’s Coffee House situated in Devereux Court off the Strand roughly behind where Twinings is today. This was a good move as after the Great Fire of London in 1666 all the wealthy people were moving west. This coffee house was on the western border of the City. It should not be confused with another Tom’s Coffee House which was in Russell Street, Covent Garden not that far away.
At that time there were many coffee houses in London but Thomas did something a bit different. He introduced tea. From gaining knowledge whilst working with an East Indian merchant he had a feeling that tea was going to be the next big thing. It was very expensive and although the price was dropping slowly as the imported volume increased it wouldn’t drop substantially until the Commutation Act of 1784 when the tax was substantially reduced from over 100% to 25%. Until that time legally obtained tea was for the rich only and poorer people acquired it on the black market. After the taxes were reduced which came about after many conversations between the Prime Minister William Pitt and one of Thomas’ descendants Richard, the smuggling trade ceased and the legal trading of tea increased exponentially.
Back to Thomas in 1706. There were enough rich people around when Thomas started selling tea and so he made enough money to open a shop next door to the coffee house with entrances from Devereux Court and Palsgrave Head Court which was parallel. Thomas had put his money into property which seemed the safest way to invest.
This new shop at the sign of the Golden Lion opened in 1717 and meant that women who were prohibited from entering coffee houses were able to visit the shop either to take tea on the premises or to buy dry tea or coffee for consumption later. As tea was so expensive they generally wouldn’t want to trust their servants to buy it for them.
The undated wrapper below dates from between 1734 and 1741. The shop name changed depending on what members of the family were running it. Thomas’s son Daniel joined the firm in 1734 and Thomas died in 1741. Looking at the history of the Twining family it can get rather confusing as they did like to recycle the Christian names!
Looking at this wrapper they were covering all bases by selling ‘healthy’ spa waters and less healthy alcohol. The spa waters, which were sometimes described as spaw waters, came from many different places. Pyrmont water was from Bad Pyrmont in Northern Germany and was naturally carbonated.
Arrack was a popular drink in the 1700s often used as a base for punch and sometimes preferred to rum. Depending on where the Arrack came from it had different ingredients. Batavian Arrack is from Java and is distilled from sugarcane and fermented red rice. Arrack from Sri Lanka is made from fermented coconut sap. I was very surprised to discover that both these types are still available from good off licences such as Gerry’s in Old Compton Street Soho. I don’t think it’s as popular now as it was then as in the year 1715-16 Twinings sold 240 gallons!
It is amazing to think that in 2018 the Twining family are still running the shop. However not all members of the Twining family were interested in joining the business.
Thomas’s grandson, also called Thomas (1735-1804), went to university and became a cleric, a linguist, a letter writer and a musician. Some of his letters were later edited into book form by one of his descendants.
Two sisters Elizabeth and Louisa Twining (1805-1899 and 1820-1912) were noted philanthropists and much more besides.
The sisters’ great grandmother Mary Twining (née Little) married into the family and as a widow of the original Thomas’s son Daniel, ran the company by herself for 21 years from 1762 to 1783. I wanted to find out more about Mary and I know she wrote a diary but enquiries at Twinings’ shop came to nothing. The book where I gleaned much of my information ‘Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Tea and Coffee” published in 1956 has just one sentence about her. If anyone reading this can enlighten me as to where I can find out more about her life please let me know.
It was Mary’s son Richard Twining, called away from his studies at Eton age 14 to help his mother with the business, who later became Chairman of the London Tea Dealers and who was consulted by Pitt regarding proposals which led to the Commutation Act mentioned above.
It was also this Richard Twining who in 1787 moved the entrance from the side of the shop to the Strand where it is today and came up with the famous design featuring the lion and the two Chinamen which we all know. He also decided not to use an apostrophe.
Reading extracts from some of the ledgers reproduced in the 1956 book it is no surprise to me that they branched into banking and in 1825 Twinings Bank opened next door. There was a connecting door between the businesses and it wasn’t unusual for a cheque to be cashed and part given in cash and part in tea or coffee. The bank lasted until 1892 when it was absorbed into Lloyd’s.
Today the shop is very much a tourist destination and although their teas can be bought in every supermarket the shop has a wider choice of teas which are mostly displayed in more decorative packaging. There is also a small museum at the rear of the shop. The 10th generation of the family still run the business but it has been part of Associated British Foods since the 1960s.
This is just a brief summary of the history of Twinings and was put together by me to deliver at London Historians’ retail themed History in the Pub on 21st August 2018. I had just 8 minutes to deliver and needless to say I didn’t manage to say all that I wanted to, hence this blog post.
Like many people I know I always want to discover something new and in relation to my guided walks it’s always a bonus to discover something that you have never noticed before on a well trodden route.
Back in early April on the morning of the day that I was going to lead my ‘From Monoux & Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ guided walk around Walthamstow I had a message from artist Maud Milton who told me that she had just unveiled some mosaics on Church Hill and thought I might like to know. Maud came along on the walk and my group were all suitably impressed by the works which were created by Maud and pupils and staff at Walthamstow School for Girls. The designs of the mosaics are all connected in some way to the local area and history: Epping Forest, Walthamstow Wetlands, William Morris, his daughter May Morris and ceramicist William de Morgan are all represented.
I have been leading this walk about once a month and last Saturday I was very pleased to discover that another 5 wonderful mosaics had been unveiled. What a treat. Look closely at the butterflies pictured below – can you see swimmers and boxers? These particular tiles were donated by former Walthamstow resident and ceramic artist alicemaraceramics
These mosaics were all created by volunteers both from schools and in the community. There is much more about this wonderful project on Maud’s instagram account including lots of great interviews with local people.
This isn’t just a Walthamstow project but is happening in other areas of London too. Artyface Community Art – what a brilliant way to get the community involved and bring some colour to otherwise drab streets.
If you would like to see these mosaics ‘in the flesh’ and learn more about the history of Walthamstow I will be repeating my ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ Walthamstow walk on Saturday 29th September 2018. A link to the page showing this and any future walks can be found here
This is the third version of my Beginner’s Guide which I originally put together in 2012. 6 years on there are many different ways of sharing content apart from Facebook and Twitter but I for one continue to use these two formats.
I am often asked have I got guiding work via social media? The answer is yes. However it’s not instant. Like in real life you have to build relationships and trust.
In the 9 years since I qualified as a tour guide I continue to come across tour guides who have got good websites but are lacking in customers due to not doing any promotion of said websites. There is still some place for word of mouth advertising and posters in coffee shops etc but there are so many tour guides out there now that you need to do all you can to attract customers. It is of course the same with other businesses. Social media is generally free and an effective way at building up a following. You do have to work at it though and it does help if you find yourself a niche.
The main recent change to Twitter is that there are now 280 characters to play with rather than 140. This is a game changer. This means that I don’t have to spend ages trying to fit a sentence into the required length without compromising on the grammar. It makes it much easier to compose a tweet.
How to set yourself up on Twitter
Back in 2010 when I joined Twitter “WestminsterWalks” was too long for my Twitter ID so I became @WWalks. Things have changed since then and last year the limit increased to 50 characters! Hmmm I could change my ID and there would be no loss of followers but I’m so used to being @WWalks and often introduce myself by that rather than my name! So whatever you choose as your ID can be changed but if you have a lot of followers you should definitely create a second ‘dummy’ account in your original name with a message saying something like ‘now tweeting as …’ to stop someone bathing in your success by impersonating you! I have just seen evidence of this but that’s a long story that I won’t go into here.
You don’t have to put your real name on the sign-up page but whatever you put will appear next to your Twitter ID on your tweets. If you use your real name in this way people that don’t know your Twitter ID will still be able to find you. I have a slight problem with my name because there is an expert psychiatrist with the same name as me. Even though I am @WWalks and my website is all about tour guiding I still get emails and even phone calls from people thinking I am the other one. I have had several cross-purpose conversations!
Once you are signed up create a short profile stating what you do and ideally include a link to your website. It is also preferable to have a photo to show you’re serious about Twitter. You could maybe use a logo if you don’t want to use a personal photo.
How to start
Even before you are following anyone and have no followers it’s best to do one or two tweets introducing yourself so potential followers can see who you are. You could just say something about what you’re up to or have a link to your website. If people look at your profile and you haven’t tweeted yet they are unlikely to follow you.
If you click on “Home” you will see a box at the top with your photo to the left of it. Inside the box are the words ‘What’s happening’. This is where you create your tweet. On my iPhone you need to click on the quill pen in the top right hand corner – other phones may show this differently.
The format of tweets has considerably changed in the last few years. Most tweets now have an image and in my experience these are the ones that are noticed.
What to Tweet
I tweet about walks coming up but I also tweet about things I find of interest in London and think worth sharing. Reply to others’ tweets (the option to “reply” is underneath each tweet), get involved and share information via the re-tweet button. If people realise you are willing to share they are more likely to reciprocate. There is now an option to add a comment – up to 280 characters – to a re-tweet. It is definitely worth pinning a tweet to the top, maybe with your upcoming walks which is what I have done.
Click on the picture of the bell and you will see who has re-tweeted you, followed you, liked your tweets etc. If you want you can change the settings so that you receive a text or an email each time someone mentions you although personally I don’t like this as it can get out of hand.
Who to Follow
As you start following people they will in most cases follow you back. However don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you. Check out their tweets first – are you interested in what they have to say or could they be useful to you. It’s also worth checking when they last tweeted – anything more than a few months ago means their account is probably dormant.
I started off by following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits, Londonist and London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. As my walks are mainly food and drink themed I also follow lots of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants. Since 2013 I have been doing local walks too so now follow lots of Walthamstow and Chingford based businesses and history societies.
People use Twitter in different ways. I dip in and out, others try to read every single tweet in their timeline. This is impossible. Yes I do follow over 3000 accounts but I have managed somehow not to get addicted. I am not an expert on Twitter by any means. In fact I’ve just discovered a whole section by clicking on the cog symbol on my phone about filtering out ‘low quality’ tweets! However from the screenshots below it seems to contradict Twitter’s new rule about not allowing duplicate tweets. I should add that depending on how you access Twitter ie via a laptop, a tablet or a phone some of the menus are slightly different.
It is unusual now to see a tweet without a hashtag and I try to have at least one in every tweet. Have you ever seen adverts with a “#” in front of a phrase and wondered what it meant. Well, this is a way of categorising tweets. If you are attending a talk or conference there is likely to be a specific hashtag so all tweets about the event that include that hashtag will be grouped together. I can’t watch TV now without following comments about that programme on Twitter at the same time! I’m not sure why Twitter thinks I am interested in Leyton Orient though!
What a treasure trove the British Newspaper Archive is!
My aunt’s connection to Agatha Christie
Sadly it was only after my Mum’s death in 2016 that I discovered that her sister had a stage name – Joanna Derrill. Mum had talked about Joan meeting Agatha Christie and once I knew her stage name I found more information. Agatha Christie attended the premiere of Hidden Horizons at the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1944. When it arrived at the Ambassadors Theatre in London it then became Murder on the Nile. Aunty Joan (Joanna Derrill) performed in both the Dundee and London productions. The Ambassadors later became the first home of the Mousetrap until it moved in the 1970s around the corner to St Martin’s Theatre.
This year for the third year running myself and fellow City of Westminster Guide (and Taxi Tour Guide) Ray Coggin will again be leading a Christmas Lights walk for charity.
This year we have chosen to support the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans. This is quite a small charity but one that makes a big impact on the people they help.
The London Taxi Benevolent Association For War Disabled as it was known until 2016 was formed in 1948. In that first year 25 taxi drivers volunteered their taxis and their time to take disabled veterans to Worthing and Brighton.
Sixty nine years later in 2017 90 licensed taxi drivers volunteered their time and taxis and took180 military war veterans on a day to remember in Worthing. You can see from these photos what a great day everyone had.
It’s not just about trips to the seaside though – the charity organises many other events for veterans including trips to the battlefields. This amazing video of their trip to the Normandy Beaches in June of this year gives an idea of what trips like these mean to these veterans. 90 taxis took 250 veterans back to Normandy. This will be the last trip of this size as the youngest veteran is aged 90 and many of them are becoming too frail to make such a trip. Scrolling through the pages of the Taxi Charity’s website and listening to some of their radio interviews on YouTube you can begin to see what this charity does for these veterans.
On Saturday 9th December at 5pm we will be leading a special Christmas Lights walk around the streets of the West End. All the money raised will be donated to the Taxi Charity. We are collecting the money via BT Donate.
As at 4th December we have raised £134 and have 14 people booked on our Christmas Lights walk. We would love to raise a bit more money and in exchange show you the Christmas delights of the West End mostly off the beaten track and away from the hordes. The walk includes hidden passages, superbly decorated posh shops and lots of historical snippets. The Christmas theme continues throughout and there will be a mince pie or two to help us on our way. All we are asking is a minimum donation of £8 per person. Please donate here and then email me – firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how many people are coming. Thank you in advance.
The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here
Last Thursday night I took part in the charity Centrepoint’s Sleep Out London in order to raise money and awareness of their work with young homeless people. We were in no way trying to replicate a homeless person’s experience but the event was more to draw attention to the raft of problems the young homeless face and to raise much needed funds.
I was part of the 9 strong Team SM&B the Soho law firm where I work part-time. Centrepoint is their charity of the year.
We were lucky during the early evening as it wasn’t particularly cold and we were able to enjoy the entertainment, bar and food without much problem.
However the temperature dropped rapidly overnight and it became a very different story.
We were relatively comfortable in big marquees protected from the weather. We had portaloos nearby and urns providing hot drinks all night should we need warming up. However sleeping in a sleeping bag with just a cardboard layer below was an extremely uncomfortable experience. Earplugs helped to block out some of the noise from my sleeping neighbours but a randomly aching leg kept me awake for much of the night. I’m at that age where random aches and pains manifest themselves now and again but they have never interfered with my sleep to the extent they did that night.
We were woken at 5.30, packed up our stuff and made our way to the catering tent to pick up a breakfast roll. The previous night’s dinner, the hot drinks and breakfast were all supplied by RAF Wittering. A very big thank you to them.
My original plan had been to go straight to work armed with wet wipes and a toothbrush but we had been woken earlier than I had anticipated and I realised that there was enough time to go home and have a shower and still get to work just about on time.
On entering North Greenwich tube the first thing we noticed was the warmth of the station. That warmth was so welcoming. At work later I struggled a bit on my limited sleep but knew I could catch up my sleep at home that night.
On Saturday I was waiting for a train at Liverpool Street station. It was freezing. Again it dawned on me that I was lucky and would soon be in the warm at home.
Before I volunteered for this I didn’t know much about the young homeless. Many of these young people have been forced out of their family homes because of abuse and a life on the streets or riding around on buses was preferable. Having spent one night out even with the facilities that we had it did give a small insight into life on the streets. I normally wear gas permeable contact lenses but realised it would be impossible to do my cleaning routine so wore glasses instead. What do the homeless do? They can’t wash, they can’t brush their teeth. They don’t have toilet facilities overnight. How do women cope when on their period? I felt ashamed that I had never considered any of these points before.
Centrepoint aim to help get young homeless people back on their feet. It’s not just about getting them into accommodation but also to improving their lives so they can get themselves into training or employment.
I am very pleased to have raised almost £500 for Centrepoint’s work with the young homeless and our team in total raised over £6,200. I’m not sure I will repeat this experience but it’s not too late to donate joanna-2
The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here