Theodora Grahn – The heavy drinking, transgendered celebrity of Regency London

Whatever else Regency London has going for it (and there was a lot), breaking the gender stereotypes was not one of them. Much more than race was ever an issue in London, people from the LGBT community such as it was had it particularly hard. Homosexuality was illegal and brought the risk of capital punishment of traditional gender roles.

However there was at least one well known person at the time who broke all of the strict gender rules. A woman who had a male name and dressed in male clothing to live a very male lifestyle and was widely accepted in the society in which she moved.

She was born in Leipzig in 1844 but following the early deaths of her parents, she moved to live with her Aunt in Berlin in what is now Germany, Theodora Grahn worked as an exchange broker in a business she set up herself in her teens, at which point she began to dress as a man and took on the name Baron John de Verdion. 

If alive today it is very possible that Perhaps today she would be considered transgender and would have chosen to be referred to as ‘he’ for his own dignity. However it isn’t known whether Theodora took on the persona of a man because she was transgender, or if she was simply determined to live the kind of life unavailable to women of the period.

As recounted in the book Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum or Magazine of Remarkable Characters , she was outed as female in 1770 by a group of men who got her drunk and tore off her clothes to, “verify her sex beyond all possibility of doubt”, which is a rather polite way of describing a horrible assault and hate crime.

Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t bring herself to stay in Berlin and instead moved to London and continued to work. She only made one concession perhaps due to her ordeal in Berlin and demoted herself from ‘Baron’ to ‘Dr.’ John de Verdion. 

In London she worked as a language teacher, teaching German, French and English. She was also a translator, a bookseller, and dealt in antique books, medals and foreign gold and silver coins.

Despite only leaving the house dressed as a man, her biological sex was well known and she became another of those well-known and mocked British eccentrics. Unlike in her native Berlin, her apparent eccentricity, talent and determination in her career meant that she managed to avoid the excesses of prejudice in London.

Londoners still love an eccentric, and back then Theodora was known for carrying an umbrella in all weathers. She also had a reputation to keep up with and even beat men in the traditional male pastimes of eating and drinking to excess.

“She was an extraordinary lover of good eating… it is well known, she could dispense with three pounds of solid meat.  A friend… was absolutely witness to her eating eighteen eggs, and a proportionate quantity of bacon, which were all broken into the frying pan at once.” 

She was also known to drink two bottles of wine in one sitting, and have to be carried home.

Of course, her sex wasn’t totally ignored and it was known that she was sometimes menaced by men who suspected that she may be a “disguised female” but her large network of friends in the taverns and coffee houses of London meant that help was always at hand. She died from cancer in 1802. 

A contemporary publication featuring the formidable Theodora Grahn

I’ve covered plenty of ‘eccentrics’ over the years in this blog, another ‘German’ and contemporary of Theodora who also lived in London was Peter The Wild Boy. You have to go a long way however to surpass the incredible John “Mad Jack” Mytton – The craziest man in history!

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Coronavirus Diary 81: Visiting London’s oldest Beigel Shop

For many if not most people, life is well on the way to being back to normal, in deed from what I can tell many peoples lives were barely impacted at all aside for a few weeks. For myself and many others in the UK however, we are effectively unable to work and I’m about to enter my 22nd month without any form of government support whatsoever.

The sheer boredom if nothing else is hard to comprehend… waking at 3 or 4am and bored stiff by 5 or 6am. There is only so much you can do in your rather chilly and damp home and similarly, how many times can you walk the same 2 or 3 routes and not see a single soul for weeks on end? Options without income are limited to say the least.

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts that were something of a bucket list of travel related sights and I have got no further to visiting any of them now than I had then. 100 Places I Want To See Before I die (100-91). As others eat out, go on modest weekend breaks or something a little further, my world has seriously contracted to that even going to get a sandwich is a treat both in terms of travelling to a destination but also being able to eat something a little different though very modest.

I’d been waiting a few months for an excuse to visit Brick Lane, and the perfect excuse presented itself… go now or jump off a cliff out of sheer boredom. Fortunately, I often get free travel, not officially of course but there are kindly bus drivers and tube station staff if one takes the time to get to know people.

A 2 hour each way journey to buy a snack might seem a bit of a laborious way to spend the day but it offers the chance to see out of a different window, see real people and maybe even have a real conversation with someone. Also free heating is a boon when like today, half of your house is only 8 degrees C / (46F).

These days Brick Lane is full of artisan coffee shops, vintage boutiques and curry houses but for a century or so, it was a very Jewish area before the community there moved to more suburban areas. Two of the last relics of the strong Jewish presence in Brick Lane can be found with two beigel shops. Beigel Bake (the white one) and the Beigel Shop (the yellow one) are two of the last reminders of a time when the street signs were written in Yiddish, the mosque was a Synagogue (before that a church) and kosher butchers and restaurants were in abundance.

These days both Beigel outlets are extremely popular places that are open 24 hours a day and have counted everyone from the infamous London gangsters The Krays to Hollywood stars amongst their clientele.

In recent years Beigel Bake has perhaps become the most lauded of the two shops but for me it is never about popularity so I wanted to visit the oldest Beigel shop in London and probably the U.K.

Whilst Americans and indeed British supermarket like to use the word bagel, in these parts the more authentic spelling is used having come from Yiddish and possibly stems from the German word, buegel, which means stirrup, because of the similarity in shape. Other possible sources include bougal, a German word for ring or beigen, a Yiddish word for bend. Beigel is pronounced differently than Bagel so get your order off to a good start by at least trying to pronounce it correctly!

Bother Beigel shops produce 2-3,000 beigels every day. These are boiled, baked, cooled, sliced and filled before being sold to a regular stream of hungry customers in paper bags.

The first time I was in Whitechapel was in the 1990’s and in those days beigels would often have a filling of salmon and cream cheese. Jump forward today and though there are almost limitless options, really if you want to have an authentic beigel then you should go for the deliciously succulent salt beef with pickle and a liberal splashing of spicy English mustard.

I don’t normally go up the top end of Brick Lane as it’s a little of my tour routes, it felt both the same but also different. More bohemian and artsy, no doubt due to encroaching dangerously close to the trendy Shoreditch.

The weather was a brilliant crisp winters day, very cold but with a bright blue sky and long shadows in the low winter sun. When I arrived at Beigel Shop there was a small filming crew outside.

I know that some people regularly travel over 100 miles each way to both this beigel shop and the neighbouring one 3 shops up the road so my 2 hour each way journey was likely not too special. As I entered the shop, a man was just carrying a bag of 30 freshly baked beigels and the smell got my appetite going.

I gave the lady my order and she asked if I wanted pickles and mustard as not everyone likes them. I told her that I wanted everything going and within a minute or so I had my freshly made hot bagel wrapped in a bag and ready to go.

I did have every intention of taking the beigel home with me or at least finding somewhere to sit down and enjoy it. Brick Lane has lots of things going for it but it’s not the best place to go and find a quiet spot; there are plenty but its whether you’d want to go down them!

I’d never had salted beef before and I’d heard about how nice it is for years and with it smelling so nice and being such a cold day, I walked about 3 shopfronts before I decided I was going to eat it there and then or at least very nearby and very soon.

I have to say it was entirely delicious and one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted. It was all I could do to avoid going to order another one straight away though it was extremely filling… it just tasted that nice. I will definitely back there sooner than later.

As I was in the neighbourhood I treated myself at what I think is the purveyor of the finest hot chocolate drinks in the world Dark Sugars – The Best Hot Chocolate in London and made my way back to the tube station for the long ride home.

The weather was so perfect for photography that I took more than a few and found myself chatting to a talented New York interior designer who was being commissioned to refurbish a home of two very famous artists that live behind the doorway I was photographing… I’ve never met them yet but perhaps one day. It was amazing to talk to someone about architecture and buildings and history and culture for a few minutes.

For a short while I was both physically and mentally fulfilled.

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Charles McGhee – The penniless Crossing Sweeper with a heart and pot of gold.

Today sometimes if you’re unlucky enough to be driving in London, you might get harassed in traffic jams around junctions to have your windscreen cleaned whether you want it or not by road-side workers who seem oblivious to the fact that cars have had washers for decades. 18th Century London had a whole wealth of informal trades that were similarly frowned upon by many tough a life-line to those actually performing the work. One such job was that of being a Crossing-Sweep.

As it came out in my recent radio appearance Crossing-Sweeps were not formally employed or paid a salary as such but were instead reliant on pennies from people grateful for their services.

There were plenty of potential customers. Ladies in long, pretty dresses and delicate shoes, or men in finely-tailored trousers with shiny boots would have had an impossible time of it if they’d been forced to trudge through the dung fields of London, had it been allowed to pile up.

Not everyone agreed, though. In his book London Labour and the London Poor , Henry Mayhew called them “private scavengers” and their occupation one that is “resorted to as an excuse for begging”, which is probably an easy comment to make while one’s shoes and trousers are dung-free. 

That said, the crossing sweepers he interviewed seemed to agree, many describing the job as “the last chance left of obtaining an honest crust”.

Many crossing-sweepers were people who suffered from rheumatism, asthma or injuries that prevented them from other, harsher work, such as bricklaying.

It was common to run up to a rich-looking person and sweep the ground in front of them as they walked in hopes of perhaps a halfpenny. In busier areas, this would become a problem – it was cheaper to take the omnibus than pay every sweeper you met.

Many crossing sweepers, travelled to different areas on different days, but others pitched up in one area and stuck around. One such sweeper was Charles McGhee. Charles was born in Rio Bueno, Jamaica in 1744, and spent years sweeping the junction between Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill.

He became extremely well known – as one of the few Black people in London, but also by his distinctive appearance: a shock of frizzy white hair bunched at the back, sideburns, one eye missing – though no one knows how – and a smart frock coat.

The distinctive looking Charles McGhee

Charles was described as “gentle” and a “philanthropist”. He was also a regular attendee at the meeting house of the Welsh preacher Roland Hill.

Charles was one of the “St Giles Blackbirds”, the first Black community in London to live inside the St Giles Rookery. The St Giles Blackbirds were freed slaves who had fought on the British side during the American War of Independence.

Not keen on remaining within the bondage of American slavery, many jumped out of the frying pan and were expatriated to the fire: London, where they became part of the poor and dispossessed underclass though at least not at risk of being enslaved as the practice did not exist in the U.K.

Charles was always found, day in day out, under the Ludgate Circus Obelisk. His patch was outside a successful linen-draper’s shop called Waithman & Co.

The shop at Ludgate Circus where Charles used to ply his trade.

The owner, Robert Waithman, would go on to become MP of the City of London and eventually Lord Mayor – but his daughter was the one who befriended Charles.

She would see him out of the window, sweeping the crossing in all weathers. When she passed him she smiled and gave him pennies, and on cold days she arranged for him to be sent hot soup and bread.

One day some years later, she looked out of the window and noticed his absence, and asked around to find out where he might be and was saddened by the news that he had died.

Shortly afterwards, she received some astonishing news. Charles had left her all his savings, and according to the lengthy article published in the 8 December 1884 issue of London’s Daily News, the sum came to £800 – which today would be worth £83,600.

For some other British related Black history you might like The story of the first Black Man in the British Army or at the other end of the scale Mary Seacole – The Greatest Black Briton

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Gog and Magog – The Guardians of the City of London

This week saw the annual parade for the Lord Mayor of London which celebrated the 693rd incumbent . Every year as part of one of the oldest civic parades in the world you might catch a glimpse of two fearsome looking but generally kindly looking wicket giants. They are the traditional guardians of the City of London and their names are Gog and Magog.

They’ve been involved in the parade since the reign of King Henry V but of course they have a much longer history even than that. They are mentioned in the Holy Bible and generally in a a bad way relating to Satan (the Devil) and the end of days.

Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog, or sometimes in older writings Gogmagog and Corineus, are descended from mythical pagan giants and their origins lie in mediaeval legends of the early British Kings. The story goes that the Roman Emperor Diocletian had thirty-three wicked daughters. He managed to find thirty-three husbands to curb their unruly ways, but the daughters were not pleased and under the leadership of their eldest sister Alba they plotted to cut the throats of their husbands as they slept.

For this crime they were set adrift in a boat with half a year’s rations, and after a long and dreadful journey they arrived at a great island that came to be named Albion, after the elder sibling. They decided to set up home in Albion and with the assistance of demons they populated the the wild, windswept islands with a race of giants.

Some time later Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas, fled after the fall of Troy and by way of various scrapes arrived at the same islands. He too named them for himself, so we also know them as Britain. With him he brought his most able warrior and champion Corineus, who faced the leader of the giants in single combat and eventually hurled him from a high rock to his death. The name of the giant was Gogmagog and the rock from which he was thrown became known as Langnagog or ‘The Giants Leap’. As a reward Corineus was given the western part of the island, which came to be called Cornwall after him. Brutus travelled to the east and founded the city of New Troy, which we know as London. How this ties in with King Lud who also founded London and indeed the historically slightly more certain King Cassivellanus ( Coronavirus Diary – Social distancing on the battlefield with King Cassivellaunus – kicker of Roman ass!)is all a little bit conflicting!

The full story can be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth century Historia Regum Brittaniae, a largely fanciful (but hugely influential) history that connects Celtic royalty to the heroic world of the Greek myth by way of the old Welsh legend of King Arthur. Those who enjoy history might know that the fall of Troy was about 2300 years before the reign of Diocletian and that the name Gogmagog is a mangled borrowing from the Old Testament, but these histories were accepted as fact for centuries and would have real importance to the mediaeval participants in the Mayor’s procession.

The custom of carrying effigies and images such as Gog and Magog at festivals can be said to be a relic of the days when the same festival would have revolved around a human sacrifice. The victim was replaced with a symbolic representation, and as the old rites were incorporated into the Church the sacrificial effigy became the saint who had made the sacrifice. Whatever one thinks of this theory, the custom of carrying effigies at festivals was widespread in the middle ages both in England and on the continent, and the giants of myth were among them. The tall figures that you will see on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show are just the latest in a long line of pagan effigies that go back at least a thousand years and a few miles away there is the annual festival at St Albans where effigies are brought through the street to commemorate historical events there.

If two wicker giants aren’t enough for once city then if one ventures to the Guildhall, the ancient seat of power of the City of London Corporation then you’ll see them again.

If you look at Magog’s shield then you will see the emblem of a phoenix which symbolises how the City of London rose again from the ashes after the Great Fire.

Gog and Magog symbolize one of many links between the modern business institutions of the City and its ancient history. The words of Thomas Boreman in his 1741 work The Gigantick History of the two famous Giants, and other curiosities in Guildhall, London (volume 1) summarise the role of Gog and Magog today.

“Corineus and Gogmagog were two brave giants who richly valued their honour and exerted their whole strength and force in the defence of their liberty and country; so the City of London, by placing these, their representatives in their Guildhall, emblematically declare, that they will, like mighty giants defend the honour of their country and liberties of this their City; which excels all others, as much as those huge giants exceed in stature the common bulk of mankind.”

They are just one of many connections between modern London and ancient history and legends. For others you might like to read The Knollys Rose Ceremony – Paying off a 619 year old rent or

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My first Remembrance Service at Bushey Memorial

Due to Covid, Sunday was the first opportunity I have have had to attend the local Remembrance Sunday ceremony at 11am as it didn’t run last year so despite having moved almost 2 years ago, this was the first time I got to witness it in person.

I’d been to the memorial last summer and was already very familiar with it having been past it thousands of times on the bus since I was about 8 years old.

If such a thing can be said, it was also a bit of a relief that I wasn’t giving a reading as I have done since 2014. Whereas everyone in my old village knew all about me, despite it being just a few miles away, no-one here really knows me, certainly not anyone who might ask me to say anything here so there was no pressure.

It was a lovely little service with the police closing off the usually busy main road and a few hundred people in attendance. There service was led by a local Vicar with readings also by a local Rabbi and an officer in the army with several other figures taking part too, not least a young chap who played The Last Post at the commencement and completion of the 2-minute silence.

An Ex-Serviceman from WW2 was the first to leave a wreath, you can see it on the top right in the form of a Star of David. Wreaths were then laid by representatives of institutions such as the RAF, Police and the Mayor of Hertsmere also laid wreaths before various associations and individuals did the same.

Having visited many village war memorials for personal and professional reasons, I’ve always found the Bushey memorial to be the most poignant and rather different than any others. It reminds me a little of the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge which was said to be the only war memorial that Hitler liked as it was the only one that truly illustrates the true sense of loss that war brings.

If you’re interested in WW1 then you might like my history book on the subject LEST WE FORGET which was published by Endeavour Press and available in paperback and electronic formats.

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150 years of disasters at Liverpool Street Station

It is nearly 150 years old and the third busiest railway station in the U.K. and only behind London Waterloo and London Victoria Station with around 64 million passengers every year acting as a London gateway and exit to travellers from Cambridgeshire, Essex, Greater London, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

But over the last century it’s seen more than its fair share of tragedy and in a way is symbolic of the way London always finds a way to raise itself from the ashes, often literally.

The station was first built way back in the days of the developing London Underground in 1874, and was to be the new terminus for the Great Eastern Railway’s network. The company operated lines to Norwich and King’s Lynn and needed a new, much bigger, station to replace its ageing terminus at Bishopsgate. The station gained its name from the street its sits on which had been named in 1829 after Tory Prime Minister Robert Jenkinson, the second Earl of Liverpool.

The East London Railway, which was being developed on the London Underground, was also to run from the station and it had a connection to the sub-surface Metropolitan Railway and would become a key hub on that line.

The station itself was built on the site of the Bethlehem Royal Hospital which had been a notorious home for mentally ill patients for centuries and which one way or the other forever gave its name to madness and chaos as locals shortened it to Bethlem and finally Bedlam!

Who would build a railway station over the bodies of ‘insane’ patients from medieval times? Madness!

Around 7,000 people living in tenement blocks had to be evicted to make way for the lines approaching Liverpool Street which shows something of the gung-ho attitude of the early railway planners.

Despite all this, it was opened for business in 1875 and was quickly running at capacity being visited by no less than 600 trains per day. By 1895 the station had been massively expanded so it had the most platforms of any London station.

But in June 1917, disaster struck as an air-raid was launched on London known as Operation Turkenkreuz. During this time, 20 Gotha G IV bombers attacked London and 200 tonnes of explosives were dropped. Three German bombs crashed down on Liverpool Street station with one hitting a carriage on a train that was about to depart and another hit carriages used by army medics.

A total of 16 people were tragically killed at the station and 15 more injured and as a mark of respect, those who died during the war were honoured with a marble memorial in the station booking hall in June 1922.

It was unveiled by senior British Army officer Sir Henry Wilson, but on his way home from the ceremony, tragedy struck for the second time. Incredibly he was assassinated and so his name was also added to the memorial.

Undaunted by such a setback and in true Bulldog spirit, during the 1920s and 30s the station continued to expand become one of London’s ‘big four’.

In the Second World War, in the late 1930s, thousands of children – Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria – arrived on trains as part of the Kindertransport trains to get them out of Nazi Europe where their lives were in danger. A memorial for this is still visible at the station today which I visit on my Great Crimes and Punishments Tour.

Remembering the Kindergarten Transport

Then further tragedy came. The station was again damaged by German bombs which fell nearby in World War 2. Liverpool Street Station also became a massive air-raid shelter for many from the Eas-End to shelter in its numerous deep tunnels as the Blitz rained down overhead.

As with much of London, by the time the early 1990s were arriving, much of the infrastructure was desperately needing renovation, renewal and expansion and just after this all happened in April 1993, the IRA detonated a massive bomb at Bishopsgate that shattered much of the glass in the beautiful station roof that forced a period of closure.

Even the 21st Century hasn’t brought peace as on the 7th July 2005, terrorists set off a bomb aboard an Underground train that had left Liverpool Street on its way to Aldgate with seven passengers tragically killed.

There can be few stations anywhere that have been hit by such a seemingly never-ending stream of disasters and yet today Liverpool Street Station is as beautiful as ever. It’s renowned Victorian architecture has been restored as has its stunning steel and glass roof arches over a beautiful piece of railway architecture.

It is to be hoped that the coming 150 years bring a little more calm to the station but maybe that would be hoping for too much.

A quiet moment at Liverpool Street on Friday.
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Inside Abbey Road Studios and tickling the ivories of John Lennon’s piano

I’ve been going to the world famous Abbey Road Studios since 2013 as part of my Music of London Rock and Pop Tour and more recently also as the starting point on my Beatles Tour of London with my tour company Ye Olde England Tours.

If I had a penny for every one of these I had taken!!

I’ve given more than a few tours to not just famous musicians but also the odd global mega-star and yet I’ve never gone past the sometimes open front gates of Abbey Road. A few days ago however at short notice I was invited to give a short tour for some VIPs who were going to be working in the studios for the rest of the day. So I dropped a very friendly hint and the day before the tour got sent an entry pass!

Abbey Road itself takes its name from the old Abbey Lane that ran a mile or so up to the one-time Kilburn Priory which vanished long ago. The studios building was built in 1829 so is not quite as old as my house but with nine bedrooms, many times larger which is no doubt why the esteemed classical composer Edward Elgar made it is home. His music of course is often highlighted around Armistice Day – Remembrance Sunday.

In 1929, the Gramophone Company converted the building into studios and due to the original large back garden of the house, the building could keep its beautiful frontage but be added to considerably out of sight from the street.

There are numerous studios within Abbey Road Studios with some smaller ones for startup bands and advertising recordings whilst others allow for large orchestral recordings with the studios having recently seen James Bond, the Star Wars films and further back Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones amongst many others.

The most famous studio is Studio 2 which is the home to all things The Beatles following Cliff Richard recording Move It in 1958. Out of the 120 or so hit tunes of The Beatles, 90 were recorded in Studio 2 with others recorded upstairs in Studio 3. Ever since then, it has been home to some of the biggest bands and performers in the world. Pretty much everyone who is anyone has recorded here including my 90’s successor groups to The Beatles, Oasis and Blur whilst just a few weeks or months ago superstars such as Ed Sheeran and Adele have recorded in this very room.

Security is tight in Abbey Road Studios understandably given the big names all around, the possibility of industrial subterfuge with people obtaining sound recordings and just the hundreds and hundreds of copyright and one-off signed photos and album covers that line the walls of the corridors. So in many places photos were clearly not allowed but after asking very very nicely once or twice the odd photo was permitted.

Abbey Road Studios has been instrumental to countless technological improvements, many of which instigated by The Beatles themselves. One of the most famous that we are all used to is the creation of Stereo sound. Apparently now 96-channel sound recording is possible and it is causing debates within the industry over whether a simpler approach might actually sound better rather than a more complicated one just because it is now possible.

I actually went in Abbey Road Studios twice in a day so thought I record this for posterity. The assorted people outside the gates obviously wondered what was going on when I walked in and out.

At the front door of Abbey Road Studios

I was lucky to be not just allowed in but be given a special tour by one of the hospitality people who work inside, it was incredibly interesting and in a way inspiring.

In the production booth for Studio 2

I was also given an Abbey Road Studios mug which currently has a cup of tea in it but amongst all the incredible moments of this special day was the chance to sit at the very piano that John Lennon played all those years ago and where Sir Paul McCartney who lives (my tour also goes to his house) just 5 minutes walk away still comes to this very day.

Me and John Lennon’s piano

I took plenty of other photos but it’s probably best not to put them all up but I thought some people might enjoy this little poke around the most famous musical studios in the world.

I loved my little tour just as my VIPs enjoyed the one that I gave them. At a time when my government has gone 21 months leaving me Excluded without helping me at all and telling people like myself we are not viable or for artists to train and get ‘proper jobs’ it’s nice to my talents are still appreciated by some of the most high-flying people in the world. It also shows just what an important part music, history, culture and travel play, especially in the U.K. which is probably uniquely strong in these areas.

What would have happened if in the 1960’s The Fab Four had been made by the government to not do what they wanted and what they were good at? Imagine!

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Why the Cop26 summit is just a load of hot air

Though I’m sure some of the world leaders want to at least pretend to care about the environment (not all even want to even pretend) it seems clear that on the whole most of them couldn’t care less.

If they really cared then they would already have made the necessary changes. Incredible things can happen overnight as we saw when everything came to a grinding halt when Covid arrived in a way I was always told was impossible whenever I mentioned how thousands die in Britain ever year due to air pollution.

I was only young but I remember in the early 1980’s knowing about global warming, the vanishing Aral Sea, cars and pollution making my asthma bad., royal family people hunting animals and until Covid, flying everywhere under the sun. Ozone layers, acid rain, richer countries ‘stealing’ water and resources of poorer nations. I vividly remember giving away all my pocket money to help save the seals from the north sea distemper. The destruction of rain forest was on our school curriculum back in the 1980’s.

You don’t need to be as slow off the mark as a 15 year old Greta, it was all common knowledge in 1982 as an 8 year old to myself and many of my classmates and it was widely reported on the television then as now. None of this is new and some people before cared then just as some do now, some pretend to care but don’t really (Hello lying adulterer Boris Johnson) and many more just don’t care at all especially if it means they would have to change their ways a little or make less money.

I’ve always eaten locally sourced foods. If you can’t grow it in England then I don’t eat it and I don’t want ‘summer’ food from thousands of miles away to eat in the winter for several reasons, not least because if you actually don’t drive and walk almost everywhere or use the bus, then you want something warm and filling. I can assure you not once have I walked round London all day in November and dreamed of avocado!

More than 400 private jets landed in the UK for the summit, carrying attendees from around the world. Perhaps they took their lead from fellow participant and climate envoy to America, John Kerry, whose family jet has taken a reported 16 trips this year alone, a case of “do as I say, not as I do” if ever there was one.

Look at the screenshot above, flying 22 miles after all ready flying thousands of miles. 22 miles is what I call a bit of a long walk.

Call me old-fashioned, but doesn’t it seem a bit rich for the world’s elite to be lecturing us athey’ve just clogged up the skies above Scotland with a fleet of multi-million pound Gulfstream jets larger than the air forces of some leading industrial nations?

President Joe Biden also made it to the event, after travelling 45 miles from Edinburgh in a 20-car motorcade that included the Cadillac “Beast” that he travels in, a 20,000lb armoured limousine that generates an estimated 8.75lb of carbon per mile driven – 10 times more than the average car. I haven’t even been in a car for 45 miles in over a year of travel combined and if you work out the carbon then that is more than I have used for travel for about 8 years. There were 20 cars for his entourage alone. I’m sure his car must have Zoom, if so perhaps he could have just dialled in from the Whitehouse driveway.

Major coal economies China, India, the US and Australia all refused to sign the pledge to phase out the use of fossil fuels. The USA is refusing sign a pledge to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars. The halfwit president of Brazil rather than fly half way around the planet to attend summit instead decided to go half way round the planet to go on holiday in Italy whilst China (as indeed has Russia) refused to attend the summit at all as it continues its two faced policy of insisting the rest of the world should show it greater respect for being a great nation whilst refusing any of the obligations that come with it.

Prince William has been making a big show of being environmentally friendly this week despite the fact he has three children. That of course is fine enough but its hard to argue going from two people in a family to five is the best way to save planetary resources!

But it was Amazon man Jeff Bezos who stole the show with his absurd hubris about how “we must all stand together to protect our world,” by which he really means you and I, not him or most of those that shared the stage with him. He is in charge of a company whose delivery vans, planes, and cardboard packaging create more CO2 emissions than some entire countries and who recently caused a huge scandal by the amount of perfectly good produce going straight from their huge warehouses to landfill sights.

As has become abundantly clear, the costs of going green will be disproportionately borne by the poorest in the form of higher energy bills, expensive heat pumps that are ill-equipped to warm many modern homes, and all manner of costly insulation for windows, walls and roofs.

Bezos’s eco-warrior act would be far more convincing if he concentrated on making Amazon a better custodian of the Earth’s resources.

This, after all, is a high-polluting shopping empire consisting of 400,000 drivers worldwide, 40,000 trucks, 30,000 vans, and a fleet of aircraft.

The company delivered 4.2bn parcels in America alone last year, up from 1.9bn the previous year, parcels that are largely made from cardboard and plastic, which contributes to deforestation and the pollution of the world’s oceans. 

And although Amazon has set a target of reaching net zero by 2040, its emissions actually jumped 20pc last year as a result of the pandemic-inspired online shopping boom.

Of course he shouldn’t be there at all as he is not in any government, it’s just more grandstanding, cronyism and corruption… the very things that have caused many of the problems in the first place.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being is usual bag of hot air talking about Green Business after 2 years in which he has left many entirely sustainable green businesses such as my own which is independently Green Certified whilst giving billions in support to some of the very worst offenders.

Ye Olde England Tours Independently Certified Green Tourism Award

As The Queen says, it’s irritating when people talk but don’t do… I’m not sure she intended to include her Grandson in this but even he is a drop in the ocean compared to our glorious global and corporate leaders. If they really wanted to act then they would have done so, this is after all COP 26 and not COP 1.

Posted in Life, Opinion, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My new Last Night In Soho Walking Tour

On Monday I posted a film review on Last Night In Soho which I watched when it came out on Friday. Having been busy on Saturday I had mused over the possibility of creating a special themed tour much as I do for several other famous shows such as Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and various Cult TV and Romcom films.

With the film only being out for 2 days, there wasn’t much information on the locations used and many of the famous websites had both missing and incorrect facts or were just blandly stating “London” which of course is a huge help in a city of 607 square miles / 1569 square kms.

As it happened I knew almost every single location from having walked by them countless times and one or two others which I may never have been but could take a good guess where they were due tot he building types, street furniture and the positioning of the tall BT Tower that can be seen in some key locations.

The only spot that had me scratching my head a little was the 1960’s club Rialto where Jack takes Sandy for an audition as only seeing it once and its at night in the film with all the music and exciting car scenes it wasn’t easy to find.

I narrowed it down to two or three streets and went round on Google Streetview and I was convinced I had found the right spot but it didn’t look right. I found out after doing some digging that the building in question has been undergoing complete refurbishment with only the shell of an exterior remaining the same. So the filmmakers took advantage of this by making a set and so a fake doorway and entrance to a club that doesn’t exist.

I knew my hunch was right and across the road was a clothes shop that the character Ellie is shopping inside when she sees the same ‘fake’ doorway almost 60 years later.

So I decided to make a new walking tour as in many ways the film locations made for a perfect walk, presuming I could find the other two I hadn’t been to before. As all my tours are in the day time, I couldn’t very well go round and take photos at night as that would be a little disingenuous and besides some of the atmospheric alleys used in the film at night are atmospheric for a reason!

On Sunday morning I awoke to a torrential downpour and stormy weather and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to go off taking photos and planning the route. For some reason most horror films seem to take place in the rain when it isn’t actually dark and I know in Last Night In Soho, they would use a hose to wet the roads and pavements to make the neon lights reflect as well as to make things a little more gritty.

So I started at the southern end of the locations, just beneath Soho and what a a wonderful happenstance occurred. Below you can see the moment Ellie steps back in time to the 1960’s.

So I went to the very spot and instead of James Bond being advertised, there was Last Night In Soho. With that, I immediately knew I was going to have a successful day.

From there I made my way around the famous Carnaby Street and Piccadilly to find Cafe De Paris which I myself remember attending a rather wild birthday party at some years ago.

From there I went to some quieter areas around Soho including finding that missing ‘fake’ entrance and the place where the leading actress stayed right in the middle of Soho for three weeks to immerse herself in the area.

Onwards I went to the pub that plays a very prominent part in the film where not only Ellie works but where she repeatedly comes into contact with an older man who clearly knows his way around the seedy parts of town and has likely done so since the 60’s.

Then up through Soho Square which is full of influential media organisations and the offices for possibly the most famous 60’s star both then and now and this area too was featured heavily in the film before reaching the famous Oxford Street which really marks the northern limit of Soho.

From there it was up into Fitzrovia, a neighbourhood which is very central but with a totally different and somewhat calmer feeling and very happily, without looking at any maps all morning I found myself in the key street where Ellie ends up living with Mrs. Collins, her house being on the right.

The prominent tower which looms overhead is the BT tower which in the 1960’s was the new Post Office Tower with its famous revolving restaurant. The ’empty’ sections towards the top of the tower once housed microwave communication dishes until they were superseded by satellites and the internet.

From there it was a few streets further north where we get to the student accommodation block in the film where Ellie struggles with her suitcase and is housed up with those dreadful students that make her life so hellish that she feels she has to move away.

Then finally it was a short walk across Tottenham Court Road and into Bloomsbury. There is a great scene or two in my old university library at SOAS.

SOAS library main reading room
SOAS library main reading room from above. In this case a picture is not worth a thousand words.

I wouldn’t dream of taking anyone inside but there are scenes set in the street outside and then 2 or 3 minutes away when she is running away in terror.

Of course the tour visits many other places from the movie as well as many famous sights in Soho with their often interesting histories. If you’re interested one day then do check out my Last Night In Soho Movie Tour. It will soon be available on Trip Advisor, Viator, Get Your Guide and many other prominent tour sites.

I totally love creating new tours from sometimes crazy and always niche ideas and then seeing them go live and soon having bookings come in and turning it into what is for me, actually work but in a way I can share my love and passion with others who feel similarly.

It’s clear no-one else could do this or know all of the locations off the top of their head and its a reminder that during these 21 months thus far that the government has left me Excluded as it so hates creative types, that when it comes down to it history, culture, films, music, pubs, clubs and tourism are what make London special. Last Night In Soho captures all of this, the good ways and the bad and in my own little way, I am part of what make Soho and London special too.

Posted in Life, London, Movies and Films, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m on UK national Talk Radio tonight at 9.30pm

I just found out that I’ve been invited to appear just after the news. We will be talking about Knocker-Uppers which isn’t as kinky as it might sound.  

You can listen on the radio, DAB or online. If you’re a little visually impaired like myself then you can also watch it on their live-stream.

If you want to have an idea of what we might be talking about, check out my post from last year The secret world of Knocker-uppers!

UPDATE:

For at least a few days you can listen to it here https://talkradio.co.uk/radio/listen-again/1635793200#

It’s on the Kevin O’Sullivan Show on the 9.30pm slot starting around 4 minutes 18 seconds in.

Posted in history, Life, News, Popular Culture, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments