Title: Bullshit London
I’m on my own in London. This is inspiring me to do things that probably I’d have trouble convincing other people to do. I’m totally bummed out about not being able to go on the Punk Rock walking tour; it overlaps with my tickets to Macbeth at the Globe. I wonder how many people have had to wrestle with the dilemma of learning where the Sex Pistols first performed or choosing to view the work of the Bard in a replica of his Elizabethan theater?
Regardless, one walking tour that I did manage to sign up for and attend was Bullshit London. The title fairly concisely describes its mission. It’s a walking tour of London that starts at St Paul’s and ends at Trafalgar Square. In between, the leader stops at various at what he considers to be historically significant points of interest and proceeds to describe them. The apparent ratio between fact and bullshit does appear to be somewhere around ten percent fact and ninety percent bullshit.
It was essentially a comedy show disguised as a walking tour. I’m not sure if I would have paid large amounts of money to see it in a theater, but spending ten pounds and walking around for two hours was pretty good fun. Here are some facts that I learned:
There at one point in time was a bunch of arms that were washing up on the shore. This caused much confusion. To try to clarify the confusion, a group of learned men came together to study. They formed an organization, called the College of Arms. Here they discovered multiple interesting things about the arms (eg the wrist and the elbow), but never did discover the secret of why the arms were washing ashore.
On the other side of the Thames, single men were going missing. It turned out that Henry VIII’s bodyguard was able to figure out what was going on because a mermaid was singing a siren song, luring the men into the water. The bodyguard was not seduced because he was deaf. The mermaid consumed the men by opening her mouth wide and swallowing them whole. The men could not completely fit, so she could only swallow their torso, causing the arms to fall into the Thames. To commemorate this discovery, a pub was created there named Found Arms.
You get the idea?
The leader walked past a building that he claimed used to hold an orphanage. There, wealthy people could bid on children and then crucify them to get a more ‘personalized’ salvation experience.
The Tate Museum was originally a holding store for potatoes (hence the name Tate) to keep the Irish in line.
The highlights were when he smoothly weaved in such stories that contained a germ of truth and a loaf of bullshit. The less successful parts of the tour were the ones where he forced the attendees to participate in silly exercises and when he tried to portray Gabriel’s Wharf as an always running reality show and would improv certain key characters and plot lines of patrons who were in turn looking at this group of people and wonder why they’re all staring and laughing at them.
All in all, it was good fun and definitely different than the typical walking tour of boring facts and architectural footnotes that no one will remember the next day.