Rishi Sunak is a liar and a boring one at that.

It’s hard to believe but I am approaching my 10th month without any pay or government support during the Coronavirus epidemic.   The government of course continue to lie and the country largely doesn’t care at all even though I personally know of 7 people in the #ExcludedUK group who have committed suicide in recent days.

Yesterday Chancellor ‘Fishy’ Rishi Sunak made the bizarre step whilst under pressure on a news interview of stating he had speaking with us at ExcludedUK despite the fact he never has and indeed has repeatedly turned down requests to do so from hundreds of thousands of us and indeed countless times in Parliament when asked to do so my MPs.

EnwvceKW8AMZZa_

I’m never quite sure how wealthy Rishi who then married into a family of billionaires can related to ordinary people. It’s useful that he has a big nose I guess as it’s hard to notice any different when it gets longer whenever he talks… or lies…. same thing really.

So I’ve made a Freedom of Information Request to see all the information about his meetings with us.  I must say, I don’t remember attending any of them even though I regularly offer to meet him and other cowardly liars such as Steve Barclay and Nadhim Zahawi.  For some reason they don’t want to meet me or anyone else from our group on television.  You’d think they would leap at the chance to show us all up but of course they won’t because if they did meet up it would expose their lies to the world.

Anyway I can see why sometimes accountants have this boring image.  I know it isn’t true of everyone but if the chief accountant in the U.K. can only make up lies about us then he hasn’t much of an imagination.  His day certainly sounded more boring than my day.

I had such an amazing day yesterday.  Don’t ever have breakfast with Lee Mack!  He made me laugh so much I snorted porridge out of my nostrils as opposed to some MPS who have snorted other stuff up their nostrils.

Then my old friend Sir Ian McKellan asked me round to his pub and we had a lock-in. He is a right handful when he gets drunk I can tell you.  I’m not sure he should even be doing that stuff with his Gandalf hat.

In the afternoon I went for a bike ride with Daniel Craig in Hyde Park. I asked about whether he could assassinate someone for me.  He looked intrigued but when I mentioned Rishi  and he started such a string of profanities that he lost control of his bike and cycled into the Serpentine. The last words I made out is that Rishi Sunak is a piece of stinking…. and then it went quiet.

Fortunately I was close to the Palace so I just about had time to for tea and scones at Kensington with William and Kate.  It was hard to concentrate as every time I mentioned Boris, little Prince George starting giggling about him being Mr Poo-Poo face.  William and Kate said he wasn’t meant to say that infant of visitors but we all laughed about it in the end.

And now here I am the morning after. You might think I am bleary eyed because I’m Excluded and can’t afford to get my bedroom window fixed so I can actually close it but let met say you’d be totally wrong. What a night with Beyonce!  I can’t say much more, it’s almost like it never happened.

Wow Rishi Sunak is a bad liar!

Only one thing in the preceding paragraphs is true, can you guess which?  It’s not Beyonce.

Posted in Life, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

The life and death of Doorkins Magnificat who put the Cat into Southwark Cathedral

The week between Christmas and New years is a strange one in the U.K. so many American and other tourists arrive and forget that they are in a foreign country and that having no national holidays since the summer, we are all finding a way to muddle through about 10 days without going to work, or at least those of us that aren’t tour guides.

Back in 2008 in the fabulously historic Southwark Cathedral during these bizarre days, a stray cat appeared at the door. Being sandwiched between the Thames, London Bridge, and a multitude of railway lines, it is hard to think of a more urban place and yet without any people around, there was obviously a hungry cat on the look-out.

After being fed each morning for a few days, the cat decided to move in to Southwark Cathedral and was given the rather fitting name of Doorkins Magnificat by the Vergers who served her on a daily basis as cat owners seem to end up doing the world over.

Doorkins was very much part of the Cathedral fabric and was popular with the congregation, visitors and staff.  A number of visitors came to the Cathedral just to see her and she has even had the honour to entertain HM Queen Elizabeth II though it is said she was less than impressed.

In August 2017 Doorkins published her first book which gives a complete tour of the Cathedral

Doorkins could be quite elusive but it was not uncommon to see her walk in front of the altar during a service, asleep on the Dean’s stall in the Choir during the day or cat-napping in the Churchyard if the sun is out. In the winter months, she liked to stretch out on one of the radiators or snuggle into the hay at the Nativity Crib during Advent and Christmas which if you have ever been in what are often chilly Cathedrals in Britain during winter seems an eminently sensible thing to do.

Like many, her life was to change for ever with the London Bridge terrorist attack in 2017.  As the area was closed off for a number of days, Doorkins was left to fend for herself. Perhaps she had been psychologically harmed during the terrible events of that night as when at last the Cathedral door reopened, she ran in and never again went outside. As with people for 2,000 years, her church had become a place of sanctuary for her.

In 2019 Doorkins was taken home with a Verger and went into retirement when her eye sight failed and it became unsafe for her to explore the vast and at times complex layout of the Cathedral and on Wednesday 30th September 2020, Doorkins sadly died peacefully having suffered a stroke.  

A few weeks ago a memorial service was held for the cat which perhaps understandably was a little controversial to those who live away from the area or were unaware of the story of Doorkins. It should be remembered though that she was a great comfort to the community in the months and years after the terrorist attack and indeed people came from around the world to see her and so bringing much needed footfall and revenue to Southwark Cathedral and allowing people the opportunity to find a quite spot for contemplation in doing so.

She had been laid to rest at the Cathedral.

Photo by Bridget Davey from the Southwark Cathedral Website

To read about an even more famous London cat then check out For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry

Posted in Life, London, Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Crimes and Punishment 360 degree Virtual Video Tour

As some of you may remember, a few weeks ago I created my first 360 degree video tour which all takes place in beautiful and literary Bloomsbury in London based upon our great Bloomsbury walking tour of the district.  So far it has proven to be very popular and even got me some new 5-star reviews which is of course is pretty tricky in the midst of a year-long dearth of tourists.

London Daily Post

Jack The Ripper makes headline news around the world.

And so I decided to create a new tour based on our Crimes and Punishment Walking Tour. This tour takes us to a decidedly less glamorous and much less visited part of London, the East End and Southwark. We start off at the location of one of the great gangland killings involving the legendary Kray twins as well as visiting spots related to Jack The Ripper as we meander through Whitechapel and increasingly hip Spitalfields.

We’ll visit plague pits, places of execution for famous figures such as William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace and then cross over the river by St Pauls and visit an area that was once the most salubrious in London and see The Globe, the infamous Clink Prison, London Bridge and Borough Market as well as stepping back in time to Victorian Squalor to visit Crossbones and the remains of the debtors prison that were so instrumental in motivating Charles Dickens. There is much else to see as well. 

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Because the tour is 360 degrees (or just about) you can use your mouse or fingers to scroll the screen around and look in almost every direction as we walk around the streets and there is nowhere quite like Whitechapel.

I’ve imaginatively titled it the Great Crimes and Punishment 360 degree Virtual Video Tour and it is 90 minutes long. So if you would like to visit a part of London that even Londoners don’t get to see then click on the link and enjoy my walk through some of the most notorious neighbourhoods in history from the comfort of your own home.   

If you’d like to share the link and help out your favourite #ExcludedUK historian and tour guide who is now on bis 9th month with no income or government support then be my guest 🙂 

https://yeoldeenglandtours.co.uk/our-tours-2/virtual-video-tours-2/great-crimes-punishments-360-degree-virtual-video-tour/

My next tour will be in a totally different part of London, Westminster with all its pomp and circumstance.

Posted in Life, London, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My WW1 history book ‘Lest We Forget’ is currently available free on Kindle by the Publishers

I know it’s quite a common thing for some writer to make their books available free or heavily discounted  for a short period of time.  It’s never something I’ve agreed with or indeed done.

Whilst checking on some on something else I found out my WW1 history book Lest We Forget which was published by Endeavour Press (now Lume Books) in 2015 is currently available for free on Kindle or for Kindle apps.

One of the differences with having a book published rather than self-published is that unless you are JK Rowling, you give up a lot of control over certain aspects of your book and this is a good example.

However now that I know it is on offer, I thought I’d tell you all so you can treat yourself to a great freebie… if I say so myself.

Lest We Forget is an easy to read guide to WW1 and is only 122 pages long.  Those 122 pages, however, cover pretty much the entire war as you can see from the chapter titles below.

1    Introduction
2    The Road to War
3    Over By Christmas
4    The Pals Battalions
5    The Race To The Sea
6    The Christmas Truce
7    Life In The Trenches
8    WW1 Literature & Poetry
9    Verdun
10    Battle Of The Somme
11    The War At Sea
12    The Home Front
13    Women And The War
14    New Weapons Of War
15    Desert Campaigns
16    War In The Air
17    Gallipoli
18    World War One Legends
19    They Called It Passchendaele
20    The War Around The World
21    Armenia
22    The Russian Revolution
23    The Americans Are Coming!
24    The Hundred Day Offensive
25    The Armistice
26    Aftermath
27    Remembering The Great War
28    Maps and Photographs

 

From Finland to New Zealand, India to Canada, Lawrence of Arabia to the Red Baron, the horrors of Verdun to the musings of the poets, this book gives a great introduction to the war for casual readers and those wanting a new insight into WW1.

Recently we remembered a succession of 100th anniversaries  relating to the war such as the Christmas Truce football matches, the sinking of the Lusitania, Gallipoli and the awful first day of The Somme.  Lest We Forget covers each one of these epochal events and many more.

I’ve also included the run up to the war itself, insights into how it affects the modern world and how we remember the war today.

Not many people today realise that Britain was bombed by Zeppelins in WW1 and that the east coast was attacked by the German navy.  Or that the American entry into WW1 was very much delayed and that British grew so bewildered that their contacts in Washington fed the American government lies about German school children having parties to celebrate the sinking of American civilian ships.

Everyone knows about the Nazi holocaust in WW2, but very few know their allies in WW1, the Turkish Ottomans carried out their own holocaust of Christian Armenians.  Or that progress on the western front was so slight that the first and last British soldier killed in the trenches are buried precisely six feet but nearly 1 million men apart.

Think the French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys, read about Verdun.  Think the British generals were bad on the treatment of their men at The Somme, learn about the final day of the war and an American commander who cost countless lives just so he could have a hot bath.

Of course, it is called WW1 for a reason, and this book deals with campaigns in Africa, Asia and the South Pacific as well as less remembered campaigns than those we all talk about.

Learn about the various advances in areas such as tanks and poison gas and some low-tech solutions like urine soaked clothes.

Lest We Forget is also available in Paperback.

Posted in history, Life, writing, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

An autumnal glow from a leafy carpet

After I moved in to my old, small and rather characterful Georgian cottage, I’ve spent much of the year finding out about its various quirks and issues.  Some lovely, some needing to be repaired and few that remain unaffordable to sort out.

Leafy

One rather picturesque feature that came with the house is the fact it comes with an ancient bit of technology known as a leaf-magnet.   I know the village is famously leafy but I’m not quite sure how half the leaves in the place have ended up in my front garden. 

Revenge of the leafy

They look rather nice however especially when dry and add even more character to the place, even if just for a few weeks.   They are less nice when wet however!

The great Leafy rebellion

Every time the front door opens which admittedly isn’t very often these days, the front porch and living room floor end up having leaves being blown in and strewn everywhere.

I think it is rather rustic though and don’t make a big effort to sweep them up.   

A room with a leafy view

When the winds blow or it is a dark stormy night and the heavy old door knocker sometimes tapes at the front door then I imagine some shady character like Blind Pew from Treasure Island might waft in.

Sadly it seems even blind and fictional characters in a centuries old novel have to adhere to Social Distancing rules it seems it is just me and my leaves.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eddystone Lighthouse – The first modern English Lighthouse

There have been lighthouses of sorts for thousands of years, most notably the ancient wonder of the world at Alexandria in Egypt.  Even Dover Castle is home to some tall ruins of the Roman equivalent of a lighthouse.

The first modern and purpose built lighthouse was the Eddystone Lighthouse which opened for business this week in 1799.  It was constructed on the notorious Eddystone Rocks which are around 14 miles outside of Plymouth harbour and submerged at high tide.  Throughout history they had claimed countless vessels and were so feared ships actually sailed along the French coast just to be safe which wasn’t very convenient for such an important naval city as Plymouth with its fantastic natural harbour.

The Eddystone Lighthouse

The wooden structure was developed by the wealthy English merchant, inventor and engineer​ Henry Winstanley.  He hoped it would be able to withstan busy and yet we have nothing to do but I get that also.twhthgttgtthtd the “greatest storm that ever blew” and provide safe passage for boats passing by the treacherous Eddystone reef, which had caused numerous shipwrecks. Construction began in July 1696 but suffered an early setback when a French privateer ship kidnapped Mr Winstanley, took him hostage and destroyed the foundations of the lighthouse.   It must have been considered an incredibly worthy and significant thing to do as France’s King Louis XIV promptly ordered his release, noting that his country was “at war with England, not with humanity”.

The current Victorian era Eddystone Rocks Lighthouse next to the remains of an earlier one.
The original Lighthouse shortly after completion.

  And so Mr Winstanley returned to work to rebuild the tower which rose 80 feet above the reef, the octagonal lighthouse was illuminated by 60 candles and a “great hanging lamp”. It also featured a large, ornate weather vane.   It underwent major repairs after being battered by heavy winds and storms in its first winter, before being officially completed in 1699, at the cost of around £5,000.

Sadly and perhaps with unfortunate timing, the lighthouse was destroyed four years later, during 1703’s historic Great Storm which killed an estimated 8,000 people and caused major damage to vast swathes of the UK. To this date, it is the only hurricane to reach Britain at full speed.

Mr Winstanley was inside the lighthouse when the storm hit, along with two lighthouse keepers. Their bodies were never found.

Subsequently the tower has been rebuilt three times since, with the second version falling victim to a fire in 1755 after the roof of the lantern caught ablaze. The most recent incarnation was completed in 1882 by the engineer Sir James Douglass, ensuring that centuries later, the original vision of ensuring safe travel off the treacherous southern shores of Cornwall goes on.

The lighthouse was immortalised in Herman Meville’s iconic seafaring novel Moby-Dick – “How it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse” – and a well-known sea shanty “My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light/And he slept with a mermaid one fine night”.

The current Victorian era Eddystone Rocks Lighthouse next to the remains of an earlier one.
The current Victorian era Eddystone Rocks Lighthouse next to the remains of an earlier one.

For another and incredibly horrific lighthouse post you should read The tragedy of Smalls Lighthouse

Posted in history | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All About the SBS: The Special Boat Service

People all around the world have heard of the elite SAS and countless bad people are no longer around because of them.  The SAS though are the special forces for the Army; less well known is the SBS which are the special forces for the Royal Navy and the men are drawn from the Royal Marines.

They made the news two weeks ago after a suspected hijacking of a tanker by Nigerian stowaways just off the coast of the Isle of Wight.  Having been tipped off by the Ships Master, the SBS arrived by helicopter just around the headland and waited until nightfall when they landed upon the ship and seized control in just 9 minutes.

Modern tankers are often vast ships, made up of myriad corridors and passageways, hiding spots amongst cargo or equipment. The bridge is the main target – retake that and you retake control of the ship.

34831880-8877459-image-m-22_1603666265829

The origins of the SBS go back to WW2 when they were formed as the Special Boat Section, an army commando unit tasked with amphibious operations. Unlike today, the weren’t particularly well-equipped or qualified, but they were enthusiastic, resourceful, and cunning. Operators usually worked in pairs, paddling ashore in canoes launched from submarines to sabotage high-value targets such as railways and communications systems. The original raids took place along the coasts of Italy and the Mediterranean islands.

One of their early unique skillsets was in using canoes to creep into harbours and plant mines on the hulls of enemy ships. In November 1942, one group of Royal Marines, who came to be known as the Cockleshell Heroes, carried out a courageous raid on German shipping that took them far up the Gironde estuary where they sank four enemy ships. Expertise in clandestine infiltration made the SBS the ideal choice for inserting and extracting secret agents in the European theater, a task they carried out many times throughout the course of the war.

In 1987, the SBS was renamed to the Special Boat Service and moved under the supervision of the UKSF; an organisation that today includes the SAS, SBS, and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment or SRR.

The SBS has been involved in every British military campaign since WWII, as well as in a number of counterterrorism operations, counternarcotics missions, and hostage rescue operations. With deployments in all of the U.K.’s current theaters of operation, the SBS maintains a high operations tempo and has been forced to rely on its reserve element to backfill troops.

Some of the modern aspects of warfare you learn when you join the SBS include

  1. Diving
  2. Submarine infiltration
  3. Underwater reconnaissance
  4. Beach reconnaissance
  5. Underwater demolitions
  6. Close-quarters battle (CQB)
  7. Parachuting
  8. Wet jumping
  9. Fast-roping
  10. Arctic warfare

The selection process is completely arduous just like their more well known SAS colleagues and from an average intake of 125 candidates, the gruelling selection process results in only 10 men making it through.

They have been involved in every major and several less known actions since WW2, we just don’t know about them and because of them they are often overlooked compared to their SAS brethren.

Posted in history, Life, News, WW2 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

My second article for the Independent Newspaper

A few days ago my second article for the Independent newspaper was published and I thought some of you might like to read it. It is all about the travails of being a tour guide when there are no tourists!

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/coronavirus-uk-group-tour-operator-stephen-liddell-b1447771.html

If you’d like a tour of London from the comfort of your sofa then do check out my 360 degree virtual video tour of Bloomsbury!

Bloomsbury 360 degree virtual video tour

Posted in Life, London, News, Travel, writing, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Penny for the Guy and other forgotten Guy Fawkes Night traditions.

Before we go anywhere, have you read my old post Remember, Remember The 5th Of November which explains all the glorious goings on behind Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes Night or simple Fireworks night. If not, please do 🙂 and come back here afterwards.

Bonfire night has changed a lot even from when I was little.  Do you remember, remember how it used to be on the 5th of November?

Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes, has changed over the years from an event mostly celebrated by individual families to one when huge communal firework displays are the most popular way to celebrate.

Most changes have been driven by health and safety concerns, means that some traditions have been lost.

Bonfires

Most celebrations are organised these days, often by councils, sometimes by charities, but in the past any bit of land could be used by children to make a bonfire. There used to be a tradition that wood and other combustible material, obtained from every possible source, was piled up at an appropriate site and set alight on November 5th.

Unfortunately many were set alight earlier than intended and many a bonfire has been “requisitioned” and broken down to make a rival’s bonfire bigger and better.

Fire Brigades warn against individual bonfires, preferring people to attend organised events, because of the potential for danger.

The effigy in the middle of the bonfire was supposed to represent Guy Fawkes but in recent times have broadened out to include any figure of hate or ridicule.

I think I’ve only ever been to one organised public fireworks event, standing in huge crowds not being able to see much and taking ages to disperse isn’t my idea of fun.  I’d much rather enjoy one at home with a hot jacket potato or some roasted chestnuts.

Push Penny

This is a much less well known custom that has origins with Durham Cathedral. November 5th was one of three times in the year when money was thrown into the crowd.

The other days were January 30th, the anniversary of King Charles’ death, and Oak Apple Day on May 29th. A total of 20 shillings in copper was thrown to the crowds on each occasion.

Fireworks

November 5th was a gift to makers of fireworks who quickly cottoned on to the fact that their products would make an ideal contribution to the celebration as well as being a huge money-spinner for themselves.

Little children were given sparklers to hold, older ones helped pin Catherine Wheels to a suitable surface, and Dads set off fireworks in the garden or a communal piece of land.

Everyone dressed in warm clothes, hat, and scarf as it wasn’t long ago when early November used to be freezing cold rather than the luke-warm period between summer and winter.

Penny for the Guy

Children used to make a guy – representing Guy Fawkes – with old rags and parade him around the town in a wheelbarrow asking for a “penny for the guy” before he ended up on a bonfire.

The practice has largely died out but it tended to be children from working-class backgrounds using the event as a way of making extra pocket money.

Their travels around the town were often accompanied by a song or two asking for money and sometimes with an implied threat.

One such song goes: “If you don’t give me one, I’ll take two, The better for me, and the worse for you, Ricket-a-racket your hedges shall go.”

I remember seeing some quite impressive Guys even in the late 1980’s.  Sadly I never got to do that myself, not having a cart or anything to make one out of rather thwarted the whole idea.Penny-for-the-guy

 

Bonfire Toffee

Sometimes known as Treacle Toffee, or Plot Toffee, Tom Trot or even claggums. Bonfire Toffee was a black toffee, known as claggums in some places, eaten on Bonfire Night and Halloween.

It was usually home made, rather than bought from shops, and local communities will join together to make it and distribute it to children.

It has largely died out but even in the 1960s, it was common from older people in a neighbourhood to make bonfire toffee to hand out to children on Guy Fawkes Night and it tastes a little bit like butterscotch.

Bonfire Toffee

Bonfire Toffee – Yummy!

V for Vendetta

Older readers may not know but V for Vendetta was a comic book series and later a film in which the main character – V – wears a Guy Fawkes mask.

Since the release of the film, set in the future, the use of the mask has become widespread all over the world as an anti-establishment icon.

The man behind the original design, David Lloyd, said it was a deliberate decision to base the look of the mask on Guy Fawkes though some younger readers may not know much about him.

 

Posted in Culture, Heritage, history, Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

My first Virtual 360 Degree Video Tour of London

For the last few months I have been busy working out a vague plan to push my Ye Olde England Tours business forward.  How can you be a tour guide and make any money whatsoever without there being any tourists?

A few people around the world have done the odd live tour using their phone to stream footage  to whoever is watching or has paid but I always thought that was a little make-shift and I wanted to do something better and more immersive.

15135982_1176911222398474_6054360376722420185_n-2

And so I give to the world our first ever 360 degree virtual video tour of London, this one in literary Bloomsbury. I picked this tour as hardly anyone ever visits here except perhaps to explore the cavernous British Museum but it has such a rich cultural history.

Perhaps as importantly it is Autumn and Bloomsbury is full of beautiful garden squares and if you want to visit them then the best times are either in spring, peak summer of autumn when the leaves are in colour.

Map of Bloomsbury

Map of Bloomsbury

It is based on my London Literary Tour (Bloomsbury) but whilst that is 2-2.5 hours long, this video tour is around 70 minutes in length.  It covers the same places and people but is obviously less in depth.  

As the video is filmed in 360 degree video as I walk and talk through Bloomsbury, you can scroll the screen and look in every direction as we visit the homes of some of the great writers in literature as well as great figures such as Gandhi, Thomas Coram and the wickest man in the world!

At just £11 it’s a great way to get a taste of a beautiful but rarely visited part of London whilst supporting you favourite blogger and travel guide 🙂 and from the comfort of your own home.

All you have to do is click on the link below, enter your card details into a secure international payment system and you’re away!

Bloomsbury 360 degree virtual video tour

This is just the first tour out of many that I want to produce so in the end it will be like a mini-Netflix of tours.

Posted in Culture, Life, London, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment