Thursday, 4 February 2016


I wrote about my adventure on the Northern Line in my diary today. So here are my diary pages with some photographs.
I hope you can read my handwriting? It is a mixture of  cursive and italic styles.As a child I was taught a cursive style. Over the years, teaching in various schools that had differing handwriting policies, I have had to adapt my handwriting to fit what each school required. I can write in a few styles now but I have to consciously make an effort to keep to one style. My own handwriting, performed almost at an unconscious level, has now become a mixture of  different styles.

 My day on the Northern Line, Morden to Edgware.

On the 163 bus to Morden travelling along Grand Drive from Motspur Park.

The 163 bus.

On the tube.

 Travelling towards Edgware.

Arriving in Edgware.

Edgware station entrance.

This is Edgware.

A short history of the Northern Line:
The Northern Line was created from three different companies in the 1920s. The Stockwell to Borough section is the oldest deep level tube section on the whole tube system opened in 1890.

The Northern line has various branches, which I discovered yesterday, There is the southernmost branch leading from Mordern to Waterloo. There are two central branches, one going via Bank Station and taking in the eastern part of the city and then there is the Charing Cross branch which includes the West End.The two northern most branches of the line split at Euston Station, one going to Edgware and one going to High Barnet.

The different sections of the line allude to the various railway companies that once owned the different parts of the Northern Line. The City and South London Railway Company, the C&SLR, began the original Stockwell line in 1890. The Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway, the CCE&HR, opened a line in 1903 from Charing Cross to Highgate.
In 1913 the Underground Electric Company of London, the UERL, who owned the CCE&HR took over the C&CLR but ran them as two separate lines. In 1920 a new tunnel was dug and the two lines were joined to make, The Northern Line.

At present there are plans to extend the Northern Line. from Kennington to Battersea. From recent negotiations between London Transport and the tube workers unions, mostly about safety for employees, pay and conditions, which has been long going and arduous,  a twenty four hour ,"Night Tube,"will run on Friday and Saturday nights from Edgware and High Barnet to Mordern via Charing Cross.

Between 2003 and 2010 the Northen Line was the busiest line on the system. It is now the second busiest line on the system.

The London Underground font:
This is the sign for Burnt Oak Station. Burnt Oak is the penultimate station on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line. The font used for the London Underground signs was developed especially  for London Underground by Edward Johnston in 1916. It is a modern, simple and fresh lettering.It is just as direct and clean cut as  when it was first introduced in 1916. Transport for London owns the design and copyrights for all cuts of the New Johnston font. Other versions of the font such as the Johnson Delf Smith typeface was developed for some historical signs.

What of the future?
The Northern Line provides a link between north and south London.It works at full capacity being one of the busiest tube links in London. Over the decades and centuries it has been in existence it has provided access for people to get to jobs within the city in the banking and insurance sectors and has provided links to the entertainment industries in the West End and also the retail sector centered on Oxford Street and Regents Street. Jobs, businesses,the creative sectors such as the arts, museums, theatres and concert halls , leisure and education have all been served by providing quick travel from north to south London. London is growing and exapnding at an enormous rate. More jobs and more indutries are needed to be developed and grow. The present tube and transport network, being at full capacity, needs to be expanded and modernised to meet these 21st century demands. Crossrail has been recently completed from Heathrow  to Canary Wharf in the  east. It is a fast, high volume and modern expansion to London's transport system. Crossrail 2 is now planned and in the process of being constructed from South London to North London to create a much more efficient and high capacity, "northern line." Here is the Transport for London's description of the benefits provided by these new and faster crossrail networks.

"The key transport aims for Crossrail will support delivery of the objectives set out in the May 2010 Mayor’s Transport Strategy, namely to: • Support sustainable economic development and population growth by increasing transport capacity, reducing congestion on the transport network; • Improve transport connectivity through journey time savings; and   • Bring wider benefits including: enhancing accessibility (including those with restricted mobility) thereby improving people’s access to jobs, schools and other locations; improved transport safety with reduced road accidents; and environmental improvements; including a reduction in C02 emissions; 2.3 Crossrail will also support the delivery of objectives set out in the DfT’s Business Plan, namely to: • Support a transport system that is an engine for economic growth but one that is also greener and safer and improves quality of life in our communities; • Improve the links that help to move goods and people around; • Secure the sustainability of the railway and create capacity for improvement of services, by addressing the high cost of the UK railway compared with other railways and comparable industries; continue to invest in Crossrail and London Underground upgrades in the capital. Supporting London’s growth and relieving congestion."

The old Northern Line has provided access for Londoners, north and south, in the past and the above is a good description of what The Northern line has provided until now but on a smaller scale. The new Crossrail is intended to carry these  benefits, at an increased rate, forward into the 21st century.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Marilyn, Sam, Alice, Emily and I have lived in this house for twenty-four years. Abi was born fifteen years ago. She is the only one us who has lived in the house all of her life so far. One of the first things we discovered, soon after moving in, was the message imprinted into the concrete border of the small semicircular pond we used to have in the back garden. It read, “6th June 1930.” This gave us an immediate connection with the people who first lived in our house. If we traced the letters and numbers of the imprint with our fingers, we were putting our fingers in the very spaces they had dragged their fingers to form the message.  Perhaps it commemorated the date they moved in, or, it was the date they completed making the pond?
So here I am looking into our back garden from the dining table positioned under a velux window in the roof of our new rear extension.  I can see the new patio just outside the bifold doors. It doesn’t look new. The rustic style tiles have lichen on their surface and they have a weathered look. This is because the tiles are not new. They were dug up from the garden path and used to cover the patio to give it an old, and we hope, a timeless look. The hardcore used to create the foundations of the patio are the back wall of our house that was demolished.The garden path from which the patio tiles were taken, is covered mostly by brown rotting crab apples fallen last Autumn. There is still one line of paving slabs, where there used to be two lines, stretching the length of the garden to the two sheds we have at the bottom.

Gardens, what are they exactly in the greater consideration of things? As human beings we are very good at classification. By ordering things into groups it helps us understand things better. Or so we think. Often if we change how we categorise things we see things differently. For example, we can categorise rocks into sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. It helps us understand how the rocks were formed and where they come from.But if we see them in relation to how they can be used in,say, building, or perhaps as an artistic medium for sculpture or again as far as their textures and colours can be incorporated into garden design, we see them and understand them differently.

Our garden before the removal of the pond.

More and more these days people are recategorising our environments. In his book Landmarks, Robert Mcfarlane talks about,” edge lands.” I have watched a documentary about people exploring those areas near cities and towns which we find it difficult to categorise. No longer farming happens on these city edges. There might be unkempt fields left wild or with industrial estates built on them. They might be isolated pockets of scrub land between motorway junctions or near airports on the outer reaches of a conurbation. These are what is termed edge lands because they are on the edge of things. So an edge land doesn’t fit into any clear cut category of landscape. It is often an untidy jumble and mixture of different landscapes. But can it be seen as a type of unique landscape in itself?

Gardens, I think are in a similar situation. The term garden has become a category for a unique landscape. But what does this actually mean? Looking carefully and experiencing my own garden for long periods, I not sure it really can be categorised at all. I wonder what the birds and myriad of other animals who visit and live in my garden consider my garden to be? They eat, they live, they survive; what else is there for them?

We have a resident Robin. I think I found out once where he and his brood lived. We have an ivy covered fence and near the bottom of the garden, he and his wife built a nest in the thickly growing ivy near  our garden shed. Marilyn , in the Summer two years ago, got me to take the hedge trimmer and cut back the ivy, which to be honest was overtaking part of the garden near the bottom. I spent an hour or two cutting the ivy back when I came across a neat little nest buried deep within the thick entwined ivy tubers. The nest fell out. It had a couple of small pale blue eggs inside. They looked so perfect. I placed the nest, with the unbroken eggs in it, back in the ivy and tried to cover it with fronds and leaves. The nest was still visible whatever I did. Later I saw the robin on our path. It flew backwards and forwards between where the nest was and what seemed to be random parts of the garden. The next day the nest had gone. We thought our Robin had gone too.

There is a mature,” crab apple,“tree in our garden. The tree is covered in small red apples at the end of Summer and at the beginning of Autumn. Over the years, because Marilyn and I have both been working, we have done nothing with the apples, neither collecting them to boil down into crab apple jelly or to make apple pies with. The apples have been left to drop and rot on the pathway beneath or be scattered on the grass and left to rot into the soil. I am sure our back garden has the most nutrients derived from apples in its fibrous organic, and mineral constituents than any other garden I know. You can almost smell the aroma of apple in our soil.

Apart from adding to the organic make up of the garden the crab apple tree feeds numerous large, fat, grey wood pigeons. They gorge on the apples. There can be as many as ten of these grey weighty looking birds sitting in our tree bending the whip like branches downwards with their heaviness. Wood pigeons are grey with white markings on their necks. We hear them cooing loudly as they eat our crab apples and when they take flight they make a loud heavy wing beat sound like the ,”woomping,” sound of a helicopter rotor blade.

There is another, maybe somewhat surprising bird that also likes to feed on our apples. It is a green parakeet. The RSPB website tells us,

  The ring-necked, or rose-ringed, parakeet is the UK's most abundant naturalised parrot - it became established in the wild in the 1970s after captive birds escaped or were released.It is a well-known resident of the greater London area, roosting communally in large flocks. The population has been increasing steadily, though it remains concentrated in south-east England. Birds are regularly reported elsewhere in Britain, and are likely to be local escapees.”
And furthermore the statement on the RSPB site says,

If the parakeet population were to continue to grow, the implications for our native species must be closely monitored. The Government is obliged to ensure that non-native species do not adversely affect native wildlife, and is currently developing a policy framework for addressing the possible risks associated with such species becoming established.”

The story round here, in Motspur Park, is that when, in 1950 , the Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn film, Africa Queen, was being filmed at Pinewood Studios, some parakeets escaped from the jungle set and created a colony in Richmond Park. The fact that the RSPB say that the colonies of parakeets derive from escapees, the story could have some credence. They are growing and surviving nicely anyway, like the pigeons, on our masses of crab apples.

Ring-necked parakeet profile
When the children were younger we used to have rabbits. We constructed a hutch inside a wooden playhouse we have in the garden. That combination of hutch and playhouse has always kept our various pets over the years warm and somewhat insulated from the temperature and weather conditions outside. Generally during the day, we put our pets, rabbits, guinea pigs and so on and so forth, outside on the grass inside another enclosure. Unfortunately, urban gardens in Britain nowadays have foxes who visit. They smell out our animals and if they can find a way they will catch and eat them. We have generally kept our pets secure over the years but foxes are cunning blighters. If they can find a way, they will. Even though the rabbits were kept in a secure enclosure one fox found a way of getting through the chicken wire. Our well fed, very plump and rather large rabbit went missing one day. We didn’t tell Sam, Alice and Emily, who were quite young then, but Marilyn and I found body parts. A rabbit paw lay amongst the shrubbery and bits of rabbit fur was snagged on brambles and some rocks we have at the bottom of the garden. We told the children that,” Fluffy, “had decided to go to another home. From then on we doubled the layer of chicken wire on the external cage. 

Foxes also come into the garden to raid the bins. If they can smell food in the rubbish bins they will attack them, turn them over, spread the contents everywhere and get what they are after. Merton Council, for the last few years, are wise to this and supply every household with a sturdy plastic food waste bin with a lockable lid. Sometimes on a warm Summers day a fox will come into the garden and just lay on the grass sunning itself. If we see it from the house and knock on the window it will look up but generally stay put. They know we are inside and can’t get to them. If we open a window and shout at them, again, they seem to be wise to this and generally stay put. If we open the door into the garden, they will stand up leisurely and take their time to go out of the garden. They can be very very irritating.

It is interesting to consider why foxes have become urban creatures. Fox hunting was banned quite a few years ago now. People at first thought that with an increase in the fox population in the countryside foxes needed to go further afield, for instance into urban areas, to find food. But I don’t think it is that. Very few foxes were ever killed in this way, certainly not enough to affect the population of foxes. Farming methods must be the answer. There is less diversity in the countryside. Diverse habitats provide homes for a diverse range of creatures. If the diverse habitats are not there the animals will not survive and the food chains are affected adversely. The foxes food chains in the rural environment must have been depleted so they had no choice but to come into urban areas. The London Borough of Merton Council have a procedure for asking questions at their council meetings. Here is a quotation from their council meeting on the 4th February 2015
Public questions Procedure The Mayor will call your name and ask if you have a supplementary question arising from the answer you have received. If you do not have a supplementary question then simply respond thank you, no. If you do have a supplementary question respond thank you, yes. You will be shown to a seat in the chamber where you will ask your supplementary question. Make sure you use the microphone. Having put your question, please be seated whilst the Cabinet member responds. Once the response has been given, please return to your seat in the public gallery. The questions and answers and all supplementary questions and replies will be published on Merton’s website after the meeting.
3. From Andrew Gould To the Cabinet Member for Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration Question What are you doing to control the number of foxes in the borough? I am concerned they appear prevalent and increasingly confident around adults and children as well as causing a lot of additional mess which has to be cleared. Page 2 Reply Foxes are an increasingly urban phenomenon and Merton deals with them in exactly the same way as all other London boroughs. Our website provides details regarding ways in which residents can deter foxes, this includes: • If there is a fox living in a garden in your street some simple steps can help to encourage them to move on: • Keep all domestic waste in a wheeled bin or closed containers, not plastic bags and use the council’s brown bin food waste containers. • Only put your waste out on the morning of collection by 6am. • Do not leave food out for other animals. Be extremely careful where you put food to feed birds, this should be in suitable containers. • Make sure there are no areas where foxes can shelter. This may be an overgrown or neglected area or a void beneath a building. Voids can be protected using heavy-duty mesh, making sure that it is securely fixed to any building and buried to a depth of 12" (30 cm) into the soil to prevent the fox burrowing under the mesh. There is little that can be done to control the number of foxes since they are territorial and any efforts to reduce the population in one area would lead to relocation of other foxes into the area vacated.
 Councils can do nothing about foxes. We have to live with them.

A fox in an urban garden.
My next door neighbour Alf, is a brilliant bloke. You couldn’t wish for a better neighbour. He is extremely friendly. We have had a few beers together over the years in our local, The Earl Beatty. He is a qualified electrician and has installed new wiring and a new fuse box for us. We always attend his birthday party next door each year and what is more, he and Di, his wife, own a fantastic 1950’s Juke Box and play old vinyl singles on it. We always have a real party at Alf and Di's house.  The beers tend to flow. Alf has his passions. He’s had a few over the years but one interest that has stood the test of time is his rather large fish pond. Soon after Alf and Di moved in Alf began the construction of what I thought was going to be a swimming pool. It was  extensive and deep. But, no, it was to be a fish pond stocked with Koi Carp. Some of these Koi Carp are monsters now. You can see them breaking the surface sometimes and they are perhaps a metre or more long and very wide. Alf has had to cover his pond with netting. We get herons in the garden. They are great big grey feathered birds that stand on legs like long stilts Herons are only here for one reason, Alf’s fish. A heron loves a juicy fat Koi Carp apprently. We see them standing on the dividing fence between our two gardens sometimes. They stand motionless, just looking for a very long time. They point their long sharp beaks at the object of their desire.

A heron standing on my fence looking at the carp in Alf's pond.

 Often the heron will come to the realization that it is not going to get a fish, because they must become aware of the netting. But some don’t become aware of the netting and I have seen a heron flap its great wings,  and land on top of the pond and have a go at stabbing a fish through the net. They don’t get anywhere obviously and soon fly off. The RSPB website puts it this way, as far as Herons go,
Grey herons are large birds that eat lots of fish, but also small birds and mammals. You can see them by any river or lake.”
I would also add, and in my back garden.

Recently we discovered that a small mouse has joined our guinea pigs in their sheltered hutch at night time. Marilyn discovered it happily eating the guinea pig’s food alongside the guinea pigs themselves. It seemed all very amicable.
One visitor we get occasionally is a Jay. We only see it a couple of times a year. Jays, "garrulous  glandarius,"are apparently shy birds. They live,
“………. in both deciduous and coniferous woodland, parks and mature gardens. Likes oak trees in autumn when there are plenty of acorns. Often seen flying across a woodland glade giving its screeching call, it becomes more obvious in autumn when it may fly some distance in the open in search of acorns.” ( RSPB)  

A Jay.
We definitely have a mature garden, to put it politely, but we do not have acorns in our garden. Maybe the Jay is a secret lover of our crab apples, like every other bird that visits us. I have never heard it screech. I wonder what that sounds like? There are mature oaks, however, in our local park, Sir Joseph Hood Playing Fields. Oaks boarder, Blakes Lane, which is on the other side of Motspur Park Station. Blakes Lane is an old country lane, that during the Victorian period, lead to Blakes Farm, when this area was all farms.

A pile of logs at the bottom of the garden provides habitats for all sorts of woodlice, beetles and ants. In the evening flocks of black headed gulls fly overhead towards the west. Heathrow Airport is in that direction near Staines. Staines is where many of the large water company reservoirs, that provide London with water are located. Marilyn and I often wonder if the gulls are making for the large expanses of water that comprise the giant reservoirs. As I write this a blackbird with a bright yellow beak is standing on our grass. It is pecking the ground, probably trying to catch a worm. The ground is soft after much rain recently. The blackbird doesn’t have to peck the ground too hard. To the consternation of my daughters, the bath in the bathroom can be home to, “daddy long legs.” On more than one occasion I have had to catch the offending creatures in my cupped hands and remove them from the bath and find a dark shady place under a bush in the garden to deposit them. We often get sparrows in the garden and sometimes, on a warm summers evening we see swallows spiraling and racing about the sky above us. When we had a ,"wild life," pond, before we had the back of the house extended, it became full with reeds, wild irises and water lilies floating on it. The pond attracted a multitude, nearly a  plague, of frogs and dragon flies hovered around the purple flowers of the irises. Pond skaters and water boatmen skimmed across the surface of the pond.

Returning to the idea about ,"edge lands," and other sorts of landscape categories  I am not sure these  categories work.Where I live  is right in the middle of urban development and yet we get all this, "nature," that we live alongside. Bill Bryson, in his recent book, “The Road to Little Dribbling( more notes from A Small Island)”,writes that London is the best city in the world and one of the reasons he gives is that when he looks down at an Ordnance Survey Map of London he sees mostly green.Bryson loves the idea that a city, as vast as London, has so much green.There are the well-manicured parks like Hyde Park and Regents Park in the centre of London and there are the many shrubberied and arbored squares that comprise central London but also, as you move further out, there are the vast wild areas of Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, Bushey Park and Putney Commons. Then there is all the greenery bordering the Thames as you travel inland towards Windsor. Bryson sees London as comprising large green areas interspersed with buildings. So rather like my own garden, London is a happy mixture of urban, and wild nature. It is wrong to think of wilderness, countryside and town as separate entities. Do these categories really exist?

Monday, 4 January 2016


The cast of A Christmas Carol at the Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames
 ( Picture:Rose Theater website)

The sentence, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” was coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play, “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.” It is easy to say, that Bulwer-Lytton’s statement is self-evident. However, it is an interesting concept to look at more closely. It does seem the power of words are a very powerful and potent weapon in all our lives.
Marilyn, Abigail and I went into Kingston upon Thames this afternoon to watch “A Christmas Carol,” at The Rose Theatre, performed by a company of actors along with members of The Rose Youth Theatre in a production adapted and directed by Ciaran McConville. Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol, himself became wealthy and gained considerable influence in society and throughout the whole world. He was , what might be termed, using an often misused and maligned phrase, a ,”superstar,” of the Victorian era. He became so through, primarily, the power of the pen and the written and spoken word. Through words he was able to rise out of poor circumstances and virtual penury and be a powerful influence on those in power and society as a whole.

 The actors of  The Rose Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol, use the playwright’s words, interpreting them with meaning. They created a strong, emotional and intellectual response amongst a large audience using words that, to be honest, were not even their own to begin with but they certainly made those words their own. Words don't have to be your own  for you to make them powerful.

The auditorium of The Rose Theatre Kingston upon Thames at the interval.

 The young actors, who performed in this production, raise an interesting aspect. This production used children and teenagers from The Rose Youth Theatre. Drama Clubs for children and young people are numerous. My own four children all went to drama clubs when they were young for quite a number of years. In each case they went from the age five or six to at least the age of twelve. Once they went on to secondary schools they fell by the way but not until they had gained inestimable benefits and enjoyment from participating in all that a drama club offers. Abigail can stand in front of an audience and read a text out clearly and confidently. She can  learn a few lines and speak to an audience with them. Two very powerful and useful skills in our society. It will be interesting to consider how  the ability to use language creatively in various circumstances will help them as they develop into adulthood.

I have been reading ,Landscapes, by Robert McFarlane recently. He has created whole glossaries of words covering all sorts of landscape, often collecting words that have been lost or gone out of use. He states that particular words and language connected with particular places enables those using the words to understand and connect at a deep level with an environment. His book is a collection of glossaries that contain words which describe various landscapes such as mountains, water, coasts, woodland and what he terms as, edge lands. The ability to know and use these words provide great power to the user. Macfarlane sites an example where AMC, a company that develops wind farms and the local council of the Outer Hebrides, wanted to build 240 wind turbines on Brindled Moor. He tells about AMC, the wind turbine company gaining planning permission to build these wind turbines. However, the local community  gathered all the local information they could about the moorland to present to the planning department to prove that the moor is of great natural and scientific importance. Both the council and AMC thought of it and portrayed it as a useless wilderness, a barren wasteland. The local people won their case because they found words, some that had fallen out of use because they were no longer used,  that described the meaning of so many surprising aspects of the moors and hence proved the moors importance. This is an incredible example of the power of words in action.

  A Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge (Rose Theater website picture)

 For these sort of productions, such as A Christmas Carol, whole families turn up. If not the fathers, and they too turn up more often than not if they possibly can, mums with their offspring attend. Often,more than one family go together. The various families being friends. This observation alone attests to the importance the use of language and words mean to people. It is interesting, for the purpose of the title of this article, to examine the use of language and the conversations that go on among these families. Before I am accused, it sounds as though I might be an eavesdropper, these family groups tend to talk loudly and dramatically so conversations among them cannot be avoided by those nearby such as myself. By listening to their conversation it is perhaps a little too easy to make assumptions about their education and social background, which of course leads on to, through their use of language,  a consideration of the power these people might wield in society. What sort of families go to the theater? Do all families from every part of society go? Do schools and teachers think the theater, and all it means, is important in main stream education? What might this all mean for society?

So there were Marilyn, Abigail and myself sitting in the audience of The Rose Theatre, maybe ten or fifteen minutes before the production of, A Christmas Carol, began. All around us were vibrant and lively children and vibrant and lively adults mostly talking with clipped, clear, southern home counties accents, shall we say.

Imagine these words spoken loudly with no awareness of other people around them and let me assure you, there were lots of other people around.

“ Oh Emily, will you sit still? ( said with a slightly strained desperation in the tone). That is your seat.
Robert, come here at once. Stop faffing about,
What ,are, you doing my love?
Take off your coat. You will be too warm.
Arthur,what are you doing as well? Sit down!”
Then to her best friend, who has also brought her sparkling, super bright, beautiful offspring.
“Amelia, we will get them settled soon. Oh by the way, how was yours and Roberts holiday on the Amalfi Coast? Philip and I absolutely loved it when we went. Those villages perched on the cliffs. So delightful. Oh darling,we drank too much Retsina. Got quite drunk one night. Haw! Haw! Antonio, the waiter, he was gorgeous let me tell you. Got me in quite a flutter. I don’t think Philip noticed. Ha! Ha! Well if he did he didn’t say anything the love. Mind you, between you and me and the gate post, I think he fancied the waitress. Ha! Ha! Ha! I didn’t say anything.”

Its not so much the content of this sort of conversation but the absolute confidence it is delivered with.

And so conversations like this all over the theater took place in insular groups. These people do not seem to be aware of anybody else. There is something self centered about them. They are the most important people on this earth after all, aren’t they? They speak and use words with enormous confidence. That is the thing that sets them apart. They are all extremely confident. Words, language derived through a really good education, have given them this ability. These people are in advertising, or their husbands might be solicitors or doctors. I will leave out teachers and their families, although they could be grouped in this middle class strata of society. There is an element that teacher’s families have, I think, which makes them a little different and that is a consideration for others. They have a certain humility. But, I am biased!   The middle classes therefore are the mainstay of local theaters such as The Rose in Kingston or Richmond Theater in Richmond upon Thames, The National Theater on the South Bank and various other National productions put on at other theaters around London. They generally do not go to the productions that tourists from around the world attend. They read novels voraciously, give confident, apt, sometimes humorous speeches at functions and always speak with just the right words and tone at funerals and weddings. They have the words and confidence to persuade employers to give them a job at interviews. These are just a few examples of the  power of using language well.

These people sitting around us, and these type of families who  fill theaters everywhere, are supremely confident with language. They will know, not just the plot of the play, but they probably can quote well known parts of the dialogue and understand things like the meaning of the play and the characterization and subtleties of mood and tone. They will be able to discuss the play afterwards over a nice meal in Jamie Oliver’s Italian Kitchen just down the road or at, Costas, over a cup of coffee and a croissant. If that is not power what is? They know how to persuade and get things done by using language.

So how can this trend for one part of society to claim words and language as their own, spread throughout the rest of society at all levels? In schools the national Curriculum requires all children to study Shakespeare from the age of ten years. All younger children have to take school library books home to read with their parents and a strict record of this is kept. At sixteen, for their GCSE exams children from all backgrounds have to read an 19th century novel, a piece of modern literature such as George Orwell’s Animal farm or 1984, and an American novel such as, John Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath. They have to read poetry, know even more Shakespeare than they did at the age of twelve and be able to quote from Shakespeare and know not only plots but characterization and how characters interact and different aspects of the arc of the story. They have to know this in some depth, questioning and analyzing the text. They are also taken to the theater to see various productions. This possession of language by all strata’s of society is promoted strongly in schools. Language with all the power it carries is offered to all not just a few. Unfortunately, the families of some children hold them back. Some children almost learn to live a double life. They have the rich diverse language they know and learn at school and then when they go home they use an impoverished language. At The Rose Theater there were no working class families. Working class children, because of their experience of language at school would most probably have accessed the play just as well as those families and children who did go but it is not the done thing for them. This is a great shame. What is hopeful though is that because they are exposed to a rich variety and use of language at school they may be inspired and make their own decisions as they grow older. At the very least when they do come across this rich use of words during their lives they will not feel completely excluded because they will have experienced it at school.

It really is important to read and write well and use language. Make it work for you.

An introductory film clip of the show: 

Sunday, 13 December 2015



On the 4th December I went up to London by train and got the underground, the northern line, to Tottenham Court Road. I got out there and walked to the British Museum in Bloomsbury. I wanted to take one of the free gallery tours the British Museum provides. I saw that there was a free tour starting at 11.15am in Room 49, one of the Roman Galleries. The tour and accompanying talk was titled, “Gods and Goddesses in Roman Britain.” I walked to room 49 by way of the grand staircase that is located on the left of the main entrance to the British Museum. I noticed a lady standing in the far right hand corner, looking around at the people in the gallery. One gentleman was standing with her. She saw me looking and smiled. I realized that this lady was the tour guide and I introduced myself. The gentleman waiting with her said hello too. There was just the two of us on this guided tour apparently but just as she began to talk, showing us a map of Roman Britain positioned on the wall, another gentleman joined us. So it was to be three of us.

The grand staircase leading to the upper galleries and Room 49.

The lady taking the tour was genial and enthusiastic. She explained that the tour lasted half an hour and that she would be showing us a range of gods and goddesses from locations found in different parts of the Roman Provence, Britannia. She demonstrated on the map of Roman Britain where the places the Gods, she was going to talk about, were found. She pointed out Corbridge on the River Tyne in the far north,  places in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Londinium. Finally, we were going as far south as Hinton St Mary in Dorset.  The Gods and Goddesses we were going to consider mostly came from the 4 th century AD, towards the end of Roman rule in Britain, when there was upheaval in the political and social makeup of the island. It was a time when there were less individual Gods and one or two gods were becoming preeminent such as Minerva the goddess of water and Mithras, the god of war, but it also was a time that saw  the introduction of Christianity. It was a time of religious contrasts and change as well a political change.

A fine figure of a man. The God Mars from Fossdyke.

We started our tour with a case of small bronze votive offerings.It appears that the people of Britannia were superstitious. If they were going on a business trip, or they were unwell or perhaps they wanted good fortune, they would make an offering to their favourite god or goddess, the one they thought would be most favourable to their cause. This votive offering usually took the form of a small bronze effigy placed in the temple associated with their god. I presume prayers and chants were intoned, probably accompanied with scented tapers. The worship would include sensory effects of all kinds. Psychologically the worshiper would be now in a positive state of mind ready for their task ahead. The first effigy we looked at was a small, very detailed bronze statue of Mars, the god of war found at Fossdyke in Lincolnshire. It is a statue of a naked man looking muscular and well built.  It is a very flattering male figure to say the least. One aspect that is interesting about this statue  is that it stands on a bronze plinth  inscribed with a dedication to the God Mars and also to the Emperor. It  reads that it was dedicated by the Colasuni, Bruccius and Caratius and was made by the bronzesmith  Celatus who also donated some of the metal. Bruccius and Caratius were brothers, probably setting out on a business trip to another part of the Empire. What is  unusual is that the person who made the statue, Caratius, also provided some of the expensive bronze. Caratius was not thinking about making and selling a votive offering for profit it seems. Maybe by making a contribution to the statue, Ceratius, also wanted to praise the god Mars. He too must have wanted a favour. You wonder what his intentions might have been. As it is a particularly fine specimen of a votive offering  he has put a lot of work and effort into making it. These three men are investing much in this statuette. They want something badly. It is easy to say they are ignorant and superstitious. However, superstition is created through human imagination and sometimes partial knowledge about something and this belief can increase in power over time. In our own lives we invest meaning in objects. A collective family memory has meaning for us, a photograph of a best friend living on the other side of the world, a piece of furniture or a vase passed down through the family. Stories and memories attached to objects build up meaning and attachment within that object. So perhaps we should not deride the people of the Roman province nearly two thousand years ago because,  are we different really?

The Corbridge Lanx.

One particularly impressive artefact was the Corbridge, Lanx found in the River Tyne. It is ,an almost pristine, embossed rectangular silver dish. It portrays a scene of five gods and goddesses from ancient Greek antiquity. It is important to note that all the Roman Gods were taken from the Greeks. The Lanx shows a shrine to Apollo. What is interesting about it though is that it was made, like many of the objects we were looking at in our tour, in the 4th century AD when Christianity was becoming popular throughout the Empire. There are various speculations about its purpose. It could be that the owner wanted to show that he or she knew about the old gods even though he or she may well have taken on Christianity. It might be a teaching aid about the old gods. Unlike some of the other silver and gold wear artefacts on display in room 49, it is unscratched. It probably was not used to carry food. Other elaborate embossed plates show evidence for knives being used to cut food on their surface. The Corbridge, Lanx has no such marks. Perhaps it was merely displayed to be looked at?  Because it was made at a time of religious and political upheaval it can be read as the owner hedging their bets. He or she may have become a Christian but they were keeping the old Gods happy too. This attitude can also be seen in the mosaic floor uncovered in Dorset that we also looked at later.

The most flattering view of Senuna. Her front is mostly worn away and decayed.

Ashwell is a lovely village positioned on the edge of a chalk escarpment, fourty five miles north of the centre of London, in Hertfordshire. The springs that emerge from the chalk escarpment there are the source of the River Cam. It was here in 2002 that Alan Meek, a detectorist, came across the Ashwell hoard consisting of gold jewelry, several plaques of gold and silver and a small silver figurine of the goddess, Senuna. The plaques have her name embossed on them so the archaeologists were able to make this association of the statue and the plaques. Senuna was an unknown goddess. She seems to have been connected with the Roman Goddess Minerva because she has similar characteristics. One thing that this talk revealed is that the term Romano Britain is a good description of Roman Britain. The Romans did not replace local customs and beliefs but were very good at assimilating what the local people believed in and integrated local traditions with Roman traditions. Roman Britain had its own unique characteristics therefore, different from other parts of the Empire. Other parts of the Empire too would have had their local characteristics. However, all places within the Empire would have had recognizably  Roman characteristics too. This goddess figurine of Senuna is a good example of that process. Senuna is believed to have been a local water goddess associated with the springs. Minerva was a Roman water goddess and so the two became associated in this part of Roman Britain. The Roman Army is a good example of this adaptive process also. Roman legions throughout the Empire were recruited from local regional tribes. Even the great Roman Army became, over time, an amalgam of nations. One of the important linking traits though was that they were all Roman Citizens.

Some of the gold and silver votive offerings  with Senuna's name printed on them. It was been noticed that these were made with dies that were pressed into the thin metal leaves. Some of them were printed with the same die.

The other issue that the Ashwell hoard find highlights is the assistance of amateur metal detectorists and their undoubted modern day contribution to archaeology. Alan Meek, the gentleman who discovered the hoard was one such metal detectorist. Archaeologists try and include detectorists, with their expertise in detecting metal objects, in the exploration of archaeological sites. Dr Francis Pryor, the archaeologist who has excavated many Mesolithic sites in Britain, discusses the useful help detectorists provide, in his book, Home, a study of the, "home", in Mesolithic and subsequent ancient times. Obviously metal is a prerequisite so Francis Prior discusses the use of detectorists on Bronze Age and Iron Age sites and those following on from those periods in our history. I got the sense from his book that at first he was against using these amateurs, who, admittedly, have caused problems in the past, disturbing archaeological sites and sometimes stealing rare and important finds. However, Francis Pryor and many other archaeologists have formed friendly and productive relationships with detectorists where their expertise, which the run of the mill archaeologist might not have, can be used constructively in a planned and structured way alongside archaeologists working in the field. Many rare finds, especially some of the fantastic metal hoards such as the one found at Ashwell would not have been discovered.

The roundel from the Hinton St Mary villa mosaic.

Finally, we arrived at a particularly impressive display in our tour of Roman gods and goddesses. It was a 4th century AD mosaic roundel from a floor discovered in a Roman Villa at Hinton St Mary in Dorset. It depicts a large head of a young man gazing straight out of the mosaic, looking the onlooker squarely in the eye. It is an unwavering stare. Behind his head protrude the overlapping letters P and X. These are the Greek letters chi and rho. They stand for the early Christian symbol for Jesus Christ. It probably means that the mosaic portrait depicts Christ. But we have to be careful. There are oblique references to the Roman pagan gods too in the roundel. In the four corners, where in a pagan depiction there would be representations of the four seasons, there are instead representations of what could be the four gospel writers. Or maybe they are the four seasons amalgamated with the Christian symbolism of the central portrait? The image does strongly suggest a Christian depiction but we have always got to remember that the Romans were good at mixing and matching and playing the political game. They liked to hedge their bets. Joined to the apparently Christian roundel a short step away in the next room of the villa at Hinton St Mary is another floor that shows the pagan hero Bellepheron overcoming the triple headed Chimera. A pagan symbol for good overcoming evil, but isn’t that also a Christian belief?
The portrayal of a time when religious,political and national upheaval was going on, the 4th century AD, has its resonances today. There is  evidence for all sorts of  beliefs, customs and ideas coming together, adapting and changing the way people lived. So many things were being put into a sort of melting pot. We only have to look at modern times to see the same types of forces and changes going on. This gives us a strong attachment to the ancient people of Britain. They really were no different from us. The human condition doesn’t change does it?

Saturday, 21 November 2015


We met on the steps of the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus at the exact spot where 46 years earlier Skinheads and Hippies got close.

What is life about when you are 16 years old and still at school? You are an adult but your experience is mainly  that of a child.  Emotions can fly high. Moods swing so violently you are sick inside and your brain swims and spins. You have very strong thoughts, about, everything. So many questions and no answers yet. What can you do? Probably one thing is to get more and more new experiences, of the good kind, although maybe some mistakes along the way are inevitable.

So there I was the other day, rushing from Waterloo Station to Piccadilly Circus to meet up with Morten and his students, over from Denmark for a week. A group of eleven 16 year olds who have never been out of Copenhagen before. How all this came about was when I met Morten at my brother, Michael’s sixtieth birthday party at Sostrup Slot a few weeks ago. He is the step father of Philip, my niece Clara’s husband. At the event for Michael the two of us got talking. Morten told me  he was teaching his students about youth culture and that he was bringing them to London for a few days. I told him that I have had experience of taking tours in London and I offered to take him and his students on a 1960’s Pop cultural tour. I had in mind, SOHO, the site of the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, the 2i’s cafĂ© , Carnaby Street and Jimi Hendrix’s flat in Brook Street. That was our initial agenda. I added to and refined the walk later. Morten, sounded interested and a few e-mails later we had set up the walk and agreed a more detailed agenda.

On my way on the undergound to meet Morten and his students.

I got to Piccadilly Circus early and so had time for a coffee in  Starbucks in Vigo Street, just off Regents Street. That also gave me time to pop round the corner from Vigo Street into Savile Row and check that I could get a good 4G signal on my I phone outside of number 3 Savile Row. That would be important later. There are always parked cars in Savile Row which is a bit of a pain. When I arrived at Eros’s Statue a few minutes early, we had arranged  to meet at 10am, Morton and his students were already there. They were looking towards the giant,lit up, computerised advertising signs looking out over Piccadilly Circus and I approached from behind and muttered to some of the students ,”Hi I am Tony.” They exclaimed ,”Hi!” in surprise.They had obviously heard of my name and were expecting me.  I told them not to say anything and I approached Morton from behind  saying ,”Hi!!” as I did so. He spun round and gave me a hug. The students, some of them sitting on the steps leading up to Eros’s statute, smiled. They probably thought I was mad. Anyway, I made a point of shaking each by the hand, smiling and getting eye contact, whether they were sitting on the steps or standing around. I introduced myself and tried to catch their names.  I realised that their English was not good. That surprised me because I have got used to Danes being virtually fluent in English. Morten then introduced me to his  two wonderful colleagues. 

Piccadilly Circus with Eros boarded up unfortunately on a grey day.

The first thing I did was to get my black folder out and show them a picture taken by Terry Spencer in 1969 of a group of Skinheads walking past a group of Hippies sitting on the same steps that they were sitting on. The buildings in the picture were the same buildings that were behind them at that moment.  It was like looking into a mirror and seeing the past and linking now and then, two events separated by 46 years. I wonder if it did give the students a link with the past?
I started to talk, maybe too quickly. I was fired up and ready to talk about the  different youth cultural groups from the sixties. The picture was my in. Who were skinheads? So I talked about the changes to society after the second world war. I talked about working class culture and how skinheads, often a violent minority, developed. I wanted to talk about links with what freedom means then and now and how the arguments and discussions always continue. They couldn’t all understand me. Some were paying great attention. Two lads to my left were facing the other way.  If they wanted to connect with what we were doing in their own time that was fine with me. Some were better at speaking English than others and I was assured they all understood more English than perhaps they could speak. Morton and his two lovely lady colleagues interjected once in a while and translated what I had said into Danish. A few students would then ask questions in Danish which were relayed to me in English. I tried to answer and my answers were relayed back. The students seemed to require less interpretation as we went along. Maybe they got used to my voice and could pick up my English more readily. They began to ask me questions and talk to me directly. We began to have a laugh!!!! I tried not to be too intense about the themes and topics that arose. As we continued I spoke more briefly and only went into detail if I felt some were interested and wanted more.

A little dark in Great Windmill Street with the lap dancing club of the Raymonds Review Bar  ahead.

We moved on to Shaftesbury Avenue. We negotiated the crossing from the Eros statue to the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, some red double decker buses going past. Cars and cyclists darted by. We crossed at a red crossing light. One of the teachers said to me. “I have noticed English people often cross when the figure is red.” I replied,” If there are no cars coming we tend to cross. Maybe we shouldn’t,” and we both laughed. There are road works at the start of Shaftesbury Avenue so our next act was to cross again to the left hand pavement, the SOHO side of Shaftesbury Avenue .That was the side we wanted to be on anyway. I mentioned the theatres and that this was called the West End.
Within a short few steps we turned left down, Great Windmill Street. In front of us was the unlit neon sign, Raymonds Revue Bar, looking lifeless and glassy, sprawling down the side of a glum looking blackened wall. A sign on the side of the theatre read, “The Festival of Erotica.” I had warned Morten that we would be walking through SOHO on the way to some of the sites on our itinerary and told him about the sort of things to expect. He said it was no problem.

“The students all come from run down parts of Copenhagen and they are used to seeing signs for the seedy aspects of Copenhagen.”

 Danish people are more open about sex than the British. I was expecting giggles and comments but nobody even made a murmur or thought anything of it. Well they kept it to themselves if they did. Maybe they couldn’t read what it said. There was a picture of a nude woman stretched out length ways showing her naked curves but this didn’t draw any comment either. I was a little relieved. I didn’t want to discuss, erotica. We went on past the SOHO bookshop which sells pornography and the word SEX was lit up in the window in large neon letters. Why is the word SEX always lit up large and glowing red? We passed a steel shuttered and padlocked club that announced a certain type of entertainment. The exterior was grimy and stained. I am sure it looks much more inviting at night in the garishly lit thoroughfare. 

Graffitti in SOHO.

We reached Wardour Street and turned sharply right and then immediately left into Old Compton Street. On our right was the Hoi Vietnamese restaurant with its green plaque commemorating the 2i’s  Coffee Bar. I waited until all the students and their teachers had caught up.

 “This is the birthplace of British Rock and Roll,"

 I said. There was no response until one girl with a big beaming smile announced in a loud husky voice, the poor thing was suffering from a sore throat, “Rock and Roll!!” and everybody laughed. “Yes!!! I said, probably more enthusiastically than I intended. I had just got a positive reaction after all. I told them about Tommy Steele, The Vipers, Hank Marvin and Cliff Richards. An awed silence ensued.  We walked back into Wardour Street with parked cars, hurrying vans and  down at heel looking individuals going in and out of local cafes and newsagents, dry cleaners and a myriad of scruffy looking local establishments. We walked a few yards to where a large skip was situated at the side of the road, scaffolding to one side, men in hard builder’s helmets and hustle and bustle all around. I asked the students to stop and stand back to let pedestrians go by. We put our backs to the skip full of rubble and I got everybody to look up. A green plaque read,
 “Keith Moon 1946 to 1978. Legendary Rock Drummer with The Who, performed here with The Who in the 1960’s.”

This was the entrance to The Marquee in Wardour Street, the most important location in the world for Rock music. Anybody who was anybody performed here.

We were at the site of the, Marquee Club. Now for me this was one of those moments. I can be standing in a load of shit, but if a place has resonances I feel that thrill, a chill going down my spine, a sort of connection with history. It’s almost orgasmic. We were standing on a spot, in a place that is probably the most important place in Rock history, in the world. The very ground we were standing on has supported the bodily, mental and spiritual forms of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. I am going to make a list now, a little like a religious litany but these names must be said, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Yes, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Genesis…. I could go on and on. I hope you get my drift. This place, standing there amongst the detritus of builder’s rubble, is the Mecca of Rock. Morten, who is a part time musician and has his own band back in Copenhagen was in awe, as I was too. The two other teachers showed reverence and understanding and the students, well, they just shuffled and looked tired. 

"Whats The Story Morning Glory." Photographed in Berwick Street near  Wardour Street.

 We walked on to Berwick Street. We had to stop here, because I have omitted to tell you, a student was feeling sick and feint back at the statue of Eros and had remained behind until she felt better. One of the teachers had phoned her on her i-phone and the student wanted to join us so the teacher returned to Piccadilly Circus to find her and bring her to where we were, in Berwick Street. So, Berwick Street. I got out my CD cover for the OASIS album, “What’s The Story Morning Glory.” The cover of the album shows the back of a white shirted gentleman striding down a street towards another white shirted gentleman. They are probably the Gallagher brothers.It is difficult to tell. There are  shops with a block of 1960’s flats in the distance. The album cover picture is of Berwick Street. We took a few moments passing round the album cover working out where we were standing in relation to the striding gentlemen in the picture and picked out the key buildings. While we waited some went into the local shops and bought sweets and in one case, painkillers. The poor girl,was suffering from lack of sleep and had headaches. One girl sank to the floor on her bottom and sat crouched with her back against a shop front as we waited. The teacher I stood with said to her in English, “You just want to go back to the hotel and put on make up to make yourself look good, don’t you?” The teacher turned to me and said that the girls like to spend time making themselves up. I looked at the crouching girl and said to her, “but you look lovely anyway.” At first she smiled back. Then it seemed to sink in what I had said,”Oh thank you.” She beamed even more. Then after a pause,” Thank you very much,” in an even more animated voice than at first and now she was really beaming and smiling at what I had said.    As we continued our walk Morten informed me that these teenagers all came from the rougher areas of Copenhagen and had all been school refusers. This was a chance to enable them to get exams so they could choose courses to do at further education colleges.  They were polite to me the whole day and at times they warmed to the walk and were appreciative and many were  interested in what we were seeing. They were moody and there were some arguments between them but they did what they were told. They were just normal teenagers. I have no idea what lives these students live. I have no idea what has happened to them in the past. I thought they were amazing though  and full of potential.

Carnaby Street.

From Berwick Street we walked on to Carnaby Street. The Christmas lights were hanging across the street and the arched Carnaby Street signs at both ends of the thoroughfare were festooned with Christmas lights and garlands. The street was looking festive. The shops are glossy and expensive looking. I pointed out the Dr Martins and Ben Sherman shops as being shops that might have been there in the  sixties. We recalled the Skinheads in the picture I had shown them and I pointed out they were all  wearing Dr Martins. I pointed out that I was actually wearing a pair of Dr Martins myself but it didn’t seem to get much of a reaction. A couple of the girls said that they liked Dr Martin’s boots. I am not sure they actually have any though. The boots are excessively expensive. I showed them a picture of an OZ magazine from the era. I recalled how I had seen, in the early 70’s, OZ magazines being sold in Carnaby Street. I mentioned how it was a subversive publication and that it challenged the norms of society and in some cases it advocated illegal practices and hence the editors Richard Neville, Richard Walsh and Martin Sharp ended up in prison. A quick mention of Charlie Hebdo, what is blasphemy and how our freedoms, especially of speech are often challenged. Morten assured me that what I was talking about might not mean much at the moment to them but all these things they could return to in the classroom. The students, would, after having time to reflect, be able to come back to all these subjects. I was doing my best to mention topics that might be of interest.

Number 3 Savile Row, the Apple Corp building.

Our next stop was Savile Row. We stood outside of number 3 Savile Row. I said,”Look up at the roof.” We all did. “That is where the Beetles , on the 30th January 1969, held a roof top concert that featured in a film called, Let It Be. “And so we all looked and , having 4G on my i-phone and also having previously checked I could get a signal from this spot, I played a Vimeo recording of the concert. We all stood round and listened to the Beetles as they appeared on that roof top and got themselves ready to play. We listed to, a rendition of Get Back and another of, Don’t Let me Down. I and one of the teachers started to dance to the music. One or two of the students nervously giggled and attempted to dance and then gave up. I told them a little of the Beetles history connected to the building. I mentioned the extra £2 million the Beetles had earned at the time  that would have gone to the taxman but instead was used to purchase the building which became, “Apple Corp.” The students didn’t get the innuendo sadly.  That title is definitely a John Lennon bit of humour I thought. Having said that, he probably didn’t think of it himself. I wonder if anybody knows who decided on the name?

The basement of number 3 Savile Row was turned into a recording studio.

So, on down Savile Row, marvelling at the smart suits, shoes and hats in the tailors windows. Wealth and quality, the very texture and weight of the cloth used to make the suits infects the feeling of Savile Row.  There were a few murmurs from the teachers about the smart suits as we wended our way. One lad was looking particularly grumpy and disaffected. It was difficult to get eye contact. I touched his arm and immediately got eye contact. I asked him, “Are you Ok?” He answered, “Yes, I am OK.” He certainly didn’t look it. As I touched his arm to get his attention the thought did occur to me that my gesture might go two ways. We walked on until we got to the back of St Georges Church, Hanover Square. I began to search my memory  for any Dickens connections here. It looked ancient and grimy but it had an elegant classical Greek Style with a pillared portico. A typical Wren 17th century style. It occurred to me that it was the sort of church where Dickens might have written about a starving pauper begging on the steps or where, in one of his novels, some child bride was married. Must check Dickens out for St Georges,Hanover Square.

23 Brook Street where Jimi Hendrix lived with his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. The Jimmy Hendrix , George Frederik Handel Museum is undergoing renovation and a revamp at the moment.

We crossed the road by the corner of St George Street and Brook Street. Some scaffolding at the front of a building a little way down Brook Street showed me where the flat Jimi Hendrix lived in was located. Unfortunately the Georgian terrace is being renovated and the whole front of the building is covered in scaffolding at the moment. The builders had been kind enough though to display the London County Council Blue plaque with Hendrix’s name on the front of the scaffolding. My i-phone came in handy again and I played,”Hey Joe,” and some of the students huddled round to watch the video clip on my phone. Morton and I mentioned, Kathy Etchingham his girlfriend and something about Monterey and Woodstock and then moved on quickly. Everybody was getting tired now. I could sense they had had enough. The day before they had walked around London all day and here I was getting them to walk again.
One last place and then they could shop to their hearts content in Oxford Street. We made for the 100 Club at the top of Oxford Street, The British Museum end. After a quick discussion about The Who, The Stones and of course The Sex Pistols who performed at the 100 Club on a number of occasions, I stopped.

The 100 Club in Oxford Street where the Sex Pistols and many other bands have performed.

It was, it seemed, time to say goodbye. I had completed my walk with them. They  had put up with me admirably. Each one came and shook my hand and said thank you and smiled. I was quite touched. Maybe I had connected with them after all? Suddenly one or two of the quiet ones started to ask questions. One girl very animatedly started asking about Amy Winehouse. How did she get famous? What do you do to get famous? She had obviously been mulling things over. I tried to answer as best I could. I told her as far as I knew Amy Winehouse had started singing in pubs in Camden. She had a great talent and was discovered by record producers. I emphasised that you need talent. I asked the girl if she sang. She went coy and sounded shocked. Oh no, she couldn’t sing. A big lad, who had been quiet the whole day, then came up to me and asked which football team I supported. I told him, Southampton. He knew all about the position the Saints are now in the league and then proceeded to tell me everything he knew about London teams which was quite considerable. I was taken aback.

After this the students disappeared off down Oxford Street to do some shopping. Primark, was a target for some. Morten and his two colleagues invited me to lunch and we had a lovely Italian meal just off Oxford Street at a nearby Bella Pasta.

The WHO at The Marquee in 1967.

Analysing my contribution to the day, I must admit, it is difficult talking to a group of fourteen people on the crowded, busy streets of London. I am not sure how more professional guides do it. It is a skill I need to improve.  I think I talked to each and everyone of them. I tried to relate to everybody.I am not sure the topics interested everyone all the time. But as Morten said,  there were many subjects he could return to with them later.

I do hope this group of teenagers have something to think about in the future. Now,  they probably feel that they had to put up with me. I think all teenagers feel that life happens to them. I am sure they don't think that they are in control. There are a number of themes they can get to grips with, freedom of speech, fashions, the cultural meaning of music, youth cults, such as skinheads and hippies, religion, art and politics. However, all these subjects, although important and they need to think about them, are overshadowed by what is most important. They now have new experiences such as being in a different country. On this trip they have had to get on with each other. They have shown discipline about keeping to a timetable of events. They have had to combat their own feelings. They have seen a different world from that which they are used to. These kids, because they still are kids, need to be noticed, be made to feel important, listened to, smiled at and shown that what they think and have to say has value. I hope they have great ambitions. I hope each one of them finds something they really want to do.