Coronavirus Diary 24 – Zooming around London

I had a brainwave today which isn’t unusual.  What is unusual is that I have the time to act on it!  I’m rather in a quandary, I’m living in this beautiful though work-in-progress new house and despite being at home, I’ve reached the limits of what I can do without spending money or going out to buy things or have tradesmen round to do larger tasks.  So despite being stuck at home, I’m not exactly comfortable here.  I don’t even have a sofa to spread out on and watch television in the evening.

I also feel a bit and I’ve been told understandably so, let down by the country generally… money-wise.  We’re not really in it together.  People who are able to work from home or even luckier be paid to stay at home and wait for this to all blow over are in it together.  There is a handful of percent of people who aren’t in it together and fallen through the cracks.  The only creature I’ve spoken to in 6 days is the bird who comes every afternoon to eat insects of my rose bush and it’s never that responsive to me.  I guess no-one likes having to make small-talk when they eat.

Anyway my brainwave is to make virtual tour videos of London and other places.  I have 100 gb or more of photos, videos and plenty of public resources.  I thought I could either plonk myself in front of the computer or pre-record videos.  I’d offer them for free but secretly hope people would do the decent thing and press on a donate button somewhere if they enjoy it.  You only need 10 people to pay a small fee and you have a reasonably big fee, at least nearly as much as a weekly government unemployment payment.

I’m not sure how long to make each video; long enough to make it worth the effort and hopefully donation of the viewer but not so long I end up boring people.  Also London is plenty big and diverse enough to make any number of videos but doing one 18 hour video might make people think they’ve seen everything compared to 20-30 or 60 minute tours.

Also I’m a huge introvert, I absolutely hate public speaking (a little odd for a tour guide I’m sure you’ll agree).  I never use the phone as I hate it that much.  I’m rather like one of those tormented theatre stars who hates publicity and yet on stage is a huge and outgoing star and the moment the curtain falls, they don’t want to see anyone for 24 hours!  I still get just a little nervous for every tour; I think it is because I genuinely care about the tourist I haven’t yet met and want them to have the best possible time.  It’s a big responsibility that someone trusts you with one of maybe only 10 or 20 free days of their year.  Maybe their only paid for tour of their life… I don’t want to screw it up.  And there are always unforeseen issues in London, transport strikes, sporting events, political protests and rallies and of course those bad things that happen too.

Sometimes and only very rarely maybe once or twice a year you also get someone who just isn’t interested or doesn’t care or simply flat out rude.  It does kind of ruin the day and make you doubt yourself; I know I shouldn’t really care as I’m getting paid whether they are horrible or not.  When people are really nice or extra interested then it’s like they have struck gold and they get to see lots of extras.  As a historian and not just a guide, I like to be tested a bit and be given a chance to show off or explain at length rather than just go through what I learned on a laminate print-off like so many do.

Doing some sort of virtual tour will be a bit different, a bit harder.  I can’t ask what they had for breakfast or find out what makes them tick as we travel to the tour starting point.  I won’t be able to talk and explain as much as normal either which is maybe fair enough as people aren’t paying much.

I’m pretty sure I can be entertaining even remotely.  I’ve been hired by the BBC,Comic Relief, Bloomberg, the CWGC and others.  If you can keep 60 school children or 40 bankers and engineers happy you must be onto something.  I’ve even had Netflix contact me recently about a special project but that can’t happen until we can all go out.

If you’d like to leave a comment without any obligation whatsoever lol over whether you think this might be a success and if so, theoretically what length of video do you think would be the optimal length then that would be great!

I’ve also been thinking of adding a more modern and automated booking system on Ye Olde England Tours  I get some direct bookings and people can still pay through Paypal or go through multinationals like Trip Advisor or Get Your Guide and a few others but maybe having a more automated booking on my own website might help, even if it will cost a bit to implement.   I also have tours to put on new travel sites but they take so much time and often for scant reward afterwards so even during a lockdown it’s not the priority it could be.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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3 Responses to Coronavirus Diary 24 – Zooming around London

  1. brewinsgirl says:

    An interesting idea Stephen, and given how interesting your blogs usually are, so long as you stick to things historical rather than things personal, I’m sure it would be a success. One other thing, can I ask you to reconsider whether ‘Ye Olde England’ is an appropriate title for your tours. It puts me off – but I’ve come to learn that you are a very knowledgeable man with huge amounts of enthusiasm. Some how ‘Ye Olde’ smacks of the ‘laminate print-off’ guides rather than the historian. I hope this helps. and good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your feedback and opinion. I’m really glad you enjoy my blogs and yes my tour ideas would definitely be historical in nature. It’s interesting that you say that about the company name. I’ve never thought of it that way and in the hurry of creating the company after unemployment it was almost the first name that came to me and I was astonished that such a distinctive name was available. I can see why it might come over as a bit Basil Fawlty if only he were a tour guide. I’ve actually just written my post for tomorrow and in there I detail some of my plans and I’ve actually purchased other domains including Old England Tours and that is now the name of the company Twitter handle. I’ve also created Virtual London Tours and Virtual British Tours as I have these idea of on bright crisp mornings driving to Avebury, Stratford Upon Avon, Canterbury and similar places and doing the same there as what I have in my head for London. It would also give me an outlet to feel productive in as when the lockdown is over it may be best my guides do most of the tours but it should still be safe for me with a good mask on to go into London at 6am every Sunday morning for a few months and do what I need to do without ‘customers’ present or crowded streets. Perhaps if I can at least make inroads into this additional type of tour then in the Spring of 2021 a little re-branding might be in order?

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  2. jml297 says:

    This sounds like an excellent idea, Stephen, and a great way in which to share your expertise and passion for heritage and history. Virtual tours sounds like a brilliant idea to me, and I look forward to seeing how this develops. From the reply above, it looks as though you have already been busy putting the foundations into place 😊

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