Saturday, 15 February 2014

London Tour

I did something for the first time last Saturday. Well that is kinda the remit for the Year31Project after all!

I've lived in London for 4 and a half years now but I've never been on a sight seeing tour.

I've been on sight seeing tours in Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Krakow and probably some other places that haven't come to mind straight away. However, I've never been on a tour of London. You don't really do you? I mean, go on a tour of the place you live in. You just kind of live it!

But last week I got a chance to go on a unique walking tour called the 'Unseen Tour' which has grown out of the fantastic charity 'Sockmob' who engage with the homeless by giving them a pair of socks. "Ever considered the impact a pair of socks can make?" Be sure to follow the link to find out more.

In December I did a charity poetry gig call Listen Softly London in a pub in Kilburn, hosted by fellow poet Dom. This is a picture of me performing on the night:

It was a charity gig raising money for two great charities Maytree & The Tope Project and so obviously I wasn't expecting to get paid. And I wasn't haha at least not in money. But Dom did very kindly give each performer a special voucher:

Also performing at the gig was my good friend and wonderful - like stupidly good -  poet Aki. Which was great as we could hang out on the night but also because she obviously got a voucher too. Which was perfect as I had someone to go on the tour with (and to Pho for noodles and to bitch about boys and girls afterwards haha) because I'm not sure if I'd have gone on my own?

Here is a picture of Aki performing:

The tour was brilliant. We went on the London Bridge Tour which was hosted by the brilliant John Smallshaw. The tour lasted around 2 hours and in the words of Unseen Tours - which I think is a fairly good description - "This tour follows the artery of the Thames from this famous landmark, along Southbank and veering off into Borough’s more mysterious alleys that also contain powerful symbols of the outcast and social justice."

The tours are great because not only are they fun and informative. All of the tour guides are ex-homeless people. It is such a great idea because not only does it help them by giving them professional training and a chance to earn a living, but it also gives the public the chance of going on a genuinely unique tour.

Our wonderful tour guide John was himself homeless and for a while living rough in London Bridge which really gives an added depth to the tour. I enjoyed listening to the historical tales of the area, stories of Royalty, Clergy and poverty but I have to admit that enjoyed the little tidbits of John's own life that he occasionally threw in even more.

Here is our wonderful tour guide John:

John is a poet - which was a nice surprise - and gave us a couple of poems as part of the tour, which was a great little touch. Here's a video of one of his poems. Unfortunately I didn't get the beginning but it's still a great watch:


and here is a picture of the three of us together after the tour had finished.

So as I said earlier in the post "You don't really do you? I mean go on a tour of the place you live in. You just kind of live it!". But maybe you should? I'm glad that I got the chance to because I heard some wonderful stories and fascinating facts about life in London in years gone by. Most of which I've long forgotten but that's not the point. I had fun and got a slightly more rounded knowledge of the city I live in while I was at it. I'd definitely recommend going on a sight seeing tour of your own city. Alternative ones that tell the stories of witches and ghosts are always fun and if you're in London I'd say you can't go wrong with an 'Unseen Tour' which will - amongst other things - tell you tales of backstreet alleys, unsavoury characters and questionable clergymen.

Happy sightseeing!
Let me know how you get on.

P.s As I've written this post I've realised that it isn't strictly true. I've kinda accidentally lied about not having been on a tour of London before. A few years ago I did actually go on a London tour. I took my ex-girlfriend on a London Rock Music Tour - I mean she was my girlfriend at the time, I don't make habits of taking ex-girlfriends on rock n roll tours haha - that I thought she would really enjoy.

It turns out that I was so wrong haha. Even though I knew my then girlfriends likes and dislikes extremely well I somehow misjudged that one quite badly. She was a bit bored - maybe thats why I had suppressed the memory? - but I thought it was good so I'd recommend going on that one too. Just maybe don't take the girlfriend, even if she is massively into the Rolling Stones and most of the other bands talked about on the tour haha.

So not exactly my first London Tour after all but my first 'Unseen Tour' at least :)

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