Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Original London Walks
As we are “inbetween games”- the main Olympics are over and the Paralympics is about to start, that’s an opportunity to explore parts of London other than the Olympic Park. I know that a lot of tourists and visitors to the capital like to do their sightseeing from the comfort of an air-conditioned coach, or from the tops of an open top bus, but for me you’re always be missing something.

Walking is the best way to explore London, and to get up close and personal with some of the well-known, and many of the not so well known, buildings, sites, people and views. There are scores of companies and even individuals offering regular walking tours of London, and many of these go “off the beaten track” and away from the traditional walks, revealing parts of London you didn’t know even existed. Not only will you hear interesting information about what you are walking by, but there are some brilliant photo opportunities. All the walks mentioned can be searched on the Internet to get details of times and bookings (although for many you just show up!)

London Walks do a number of interesting walks over and above the usual ”Jack the Ripper” tours. One that I’ve been on was called 500 years of Black London. I didn’t know that London’s black community actually began in earnest in the 1500s, and continued right the way through to the 1950s, when the post-war shortage of workers tempted thousands to come over from the Caribbean.  

If you’re a fan of Victorian Gothic design, there’s a great walk that explores the iconic structure of St Pancras station, including access to parts of the station normally closed to the public. You can marvel at the clock tower and the abundance of spires, and the large statue of Britannia. Moreover the area boasts the oldest church in Christendom Britain plus an extraordinary churchyard), all capped off with a stunning roof-top view. I used up a whole 4MB disk of digital photos on this one walk!
Britain has had as love affair with the High Seas since Henry VIII built up a navy that rules the waves for the next 450 years. One of the most famous ships was Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. You can join actors dressed in period costumes on board an exact replica at St Mary Overie Dock to discover what life might have been like sailing around the world. The most shocking thing for me was the size of the boat. It was minute- only slightly larger than a London double-decker bus! Must have been cramped spending the best part of three years on board in all weathers and in all seas from 1577 to 1580. This floating museum is open all year round.
If you like your walks weird and wonderful, you can’t do any worse than join the Quirky London Tour. Highlights include (and brace yourself for this…) streetlamps fuelled by sewage, men chopping off their penises in public… a ballroom turned into a Venetian canal, Britain’s only street where cars drive on the right and Britain’s smallest police station. If you like the baroque, the bizarre and the frankly bonkers, then this is a great tour.

As a regular user of London’s underground transport system, I’ve always been fascinated by the closed and abandoned tube stations, structures and tunnels across London. There are a number of walks that take in some of these.
If violence and crime is you bag, then I recommend Smithfield: Murders, Monasteries and Martyrs. Starting off at Barbican tube station, this walk encompasses executions, bodysnatchers and a plague pit. The painter, Hogarth, the adviser to Henry the 8th, Sir Thomas More, and the Peasants’ Revolt leader, Wat Tyler are all mentioned. The painting here is of Wat getting the chop!
Finally you can just wander around London yourself- only yesterday I noticed some stunning photos to be had around Elephant & Castle where massive 1960s housing blocks have all been mothballed awaiting demolition as part of the area’s regeneration.
That’s just a taster of the many organised walks across London that you can join. Don’t forget to take your camera with you, if you don’t have one or want to upgrade, take a look at take a look at this selection of cameras- you’ll get some great pictures and have a tale to tell behind each one.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored guest post!
Great news!  The generous folks at Paisley Tea Co. have offered two of my readers the opportunity to each win 2 boxes of their delicious tea!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post stating your favorite summertime drink.  I'll choose the winners on Sept. 4 and they'll be contacted to let me know their mailing addresses.  Sorry, due to postage costs, this giveaway is only open to the US.

Also, for everyone who orders tea from the Paisley Tea Co.'s website the code "angloaddict" will give you 20 percent off boxes of Paisley! The code is good through Sept. 16, 2012.  Don't miss this opportunity to save on this delicious, all organic, fair trade English style tea!  Once you try it, you'll be hooked!

Thanks to the Paisley Tea Co. for offering this great prize, and good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Much like a recent starring Jim Carey, the author in the book To Be Perfectly Honest decides to tell only the truth.  He keeps a diary of his experiences in order to chart his progress.  The author, Phil Callaway, is also a minister and draws frequent inspiration and examples from Biblical passages.

During his truth-telling experiment, the author comes upon several questions which might not have been apparent at first.  One is: does he volunteer the truth when doing so would be hurtful or embarrassing to the person involved.  I would think that telling the truth would involve only direct questions, but an example he gives is when he offers his wife unsolicited negative comments on dinner.  If he found the food unappetizing (and it was only one portion of the meal, not the entire thing), it seems to me as if discretion would have trumped the need to "always tell the truth" -- especially when no one had asked his opinion!

Another dilemma that he confronts:  does God condone lying in the Bible?  He cites numerous instances where lying is forbidden, but also has some examples where lives were spared and other good deeds accomplished by lying.  I think this is an issue that most people struggle with:  will it do more harm than good to tell the truth?

Although the author speaks almost constantly of his faith, he is reassuringly human, wishing all manner of painful and unpleasant punishments on those who wrong him (and it seems as if quite a large number of people do this).  He also seems to be somewhat enamored of his own gifts, relating stories about how women throw themselves at him (but he valiantly resists temptation!), how people he counsels "can't stop thanking him" and how he generously offers free copies of his books (to people who haven't exactly been begging for copies!).

I enjoyed reading about the author's experiences and his struggles.  The book has a section of Discussion Questions in the back that help to delve deeper into some of the issues that cropped up during the year of truth telling.

To learn more about he book and author, check out these links:

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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