London Calling

London Calling

Breaking the rules
For many of us, childhood would not have been the same without what the Americans call ‘the funny papers’ but, as we more accurately called them, ‘comics’! And of these, perhaps the most famous of all time was the weekly The Beano.

The fabulous Somerset House on the Thames by Waterloo Bridge is hosting an amazing exhibition of the art associated with this iconic publication.

There are full-size models of all the famous characters like Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx and Biffo the Bear set amongst original artwork and story boards explaining the evolution of the phenomena that is The Beano.

Curator of the exhibition, Andy Holden, started putting the show together just before Lockdown brought everything to a crashing halt. It finally came to fruition some 18 months later in October 2021 and a star was born!

He said: “Unlike other comics where superheroes protect and uphold the law and uphold rules, (The Beano) is about the joy of breaking them. However, as the world’s longest-running comic, these rules must be broken in a new way each week.”

‘The Art of Breaking the Rules’ will run until March 2022 and its bright story of fun and art will appeal to children from about five to 100! Your columnist’s favourite quote from the exhibition? “Never let schooling get in the way of your education”!

Noisy November!
Dogs of London never have an easy November. That pesky Guy Fawkes and his dastardly plot to blow up Parliament is commemorated each year by people exploding dog-scaring things in their gardens in ever-increasing numbers. This year, the Moon dictated that the Festival of Light, Diwali, should take place at more or less the same time and many Hindus celebrate in similar fashion. In various parts of London, night after night, the sky is full of colour, flashes and bangs – whilst dogs sit and shake and just want it to end!

Historical sites in London are constantly re-inventing themselves and the very place where Guy Fawkes was imprisoned, awaiting execution, is planning something truly spectacular for next year.

Vaults at the Tower of London will be open to the public for the first time from next May and a 90-minute show will be on offer to re-live those times like never before. Part of the vaults have been converted into a purpose-built theatre space. Audience members will experience actors, special effects and virtual reality to transport them down the Thames to Parliament then back to the Tower where Fawkes was tortured to reveal the names of his co-conspirators.

Chief Executive of VR firm Layered Reality, Andrew McGuiness, said the technology meant that “when you’re stepping back to 1605, all of your senses are telling you that you’re there. Your eyes are seeing London as it was in 1605. You get the smells, you will see the Tower of London how it looked then, and you’ll go down the Thames and see it as it was at that time. That’s what makes it so magical.”

Also involved with the project, writer Danny Robins, said: “What we are delivering is an age-old classic story, but we’re delivering it in an incredibly accessible, explosive, exciting, 21st century way. It’s like somebody made a brilliant movie version of the Gunpowder Plot and it came to life around you and exploded in your face, with bits of Jacobean London flying at you.”

Book early though – the Tower is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and remember around five million people went to see the display of 888,246 ceramic poppies placed in the moat in 2014 to commemorate the outbreak of World War 1!

Life in the fast lane!
The streets of London may not actually be paved with gold, but there are a lot of gold cars around for sure! This time of year is famous in Belgravia, Mayfair and Knightsbridge for the proliferation of supercars on the streets. Wealthy owners of mostly foreign-registered cars display their latest vehicles in increasingly extraordinary colours outside the hotels and around the well-heeled neighbourhoods of west London.

Many local residents are not happy though as drivers of these incredible vehicles rev their huge engines in normally peaceful neighbourhoods. Kensington and Chelsea Council have been deluged with complaints and have now come up with a plan dubbed ‘Superfines for Supercars’.

Special acoustic cameras are to be installed in Knightsbridge, which will start recording when a 74-decibel threshold is exceeded. Existing fines on a fixed penalty notice are £100 (€117) and though hundreds have been issued in the last year, mostly for speeding, and through more traditional methods of enforcement, this pandemic has not been halted. The plan now is to increase this fine to at least £400 (€468).

Each camera costs around £21,000 (€24,561) a year to operate, so each would need to capture more than 50 revving drivers red-handed to cover costs. Bespoke supercars often cost more than £2 million (€2.34 million) and it is difficult to see that even this level of fine will be much of a deterrent.

As one local resident said: “The noise, day and night, from cars with souped-up engines is ruining my life. It’s too noisy to have the windows open, especially at night.”

Christmas is coming
London is returning to a new normal but not quickly enough in the eyes of business owners across the capital.

A general lack of tourists and more people working from home has led business chiefs to estimate that overall festive spending will be less than half pre-pandemic levels. They are calling on Londoners to go out and spend their money.

Jace Tyrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses in the area, said: “The long-term recovery of the West End is well on its way this winter, but we can all play our part in speeding up that return by making time to shop on our High Streets, grabbing a bite to eat at our hard-hit restaurants and catching a show.

“One in 10 Londoners work in the West End, and it has been heartening to see UK shoppers filling the district with optimism and supporting our colleagues, but that wealth of choice and world-renowned retail depends on encouraging high-spending tourists to return.”

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said: “Sadly, it could take some time for international tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels. That’s why I launched ‘Let’s Do London’, the biggest domestic tourism campaign the capital has ever seen, to encourage people in the UK to take a break in London.”

So, the advice is clear – this November, spend, spend, spend!

By Richard Lamberth

Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides consultancy services to leading businesses in insurance and financial services, property and media sectors. He has four sons, two dogs and enjoys a busy family life. He likes swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.
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