Sins of a Tour Guide no 2

St Pauls from the Whispering Gallery, Photo by K Flude.

I was in St Pauls yesterday on an exploration of London’s History. My group had headsets so they can hear me talking into my mic without disturbing others. We went in, sat down in the nave to find an orchestra set up in the crossing with a grey haired man, informally dressed, at the podium. I hate talking through music so wondered whether I would continue.

I began my introduction to St Pauls with a piece about Londinium and Christianity. A tremendous universe shattering cord erupted from the Orchestra deafening me. Then a pause, so I continued. I ascertained that my group could hear me, and I continued. I paused during crescendos and to some extent improvised what I was saying to the amazing drama of the atonal music. It was quite an experience and the music was amazing

This morning I had a chance to check it out and it turns out that I spoke through rehearsals of Olivier Messiaen’s Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum. (

And the grey-haired man was none other than Sir Simon Rattle conducting the LSO.

I think I have the right piece of music. They are performing in St Pauls on 23rd June

I’m slightly shamefaced about it but on the other hand the group really enjoyed both the music and the explanation.

Summer Solstice

Hark! hark! The lark at heaven’s gate sings, And Phoebus ‘gins arise, His steeds to water at those springs On chalic’d flowers that lies; And winking Mary-buds begin To ope their golden eyes; With everything that pretty is, My lady sweet, arise: Arise, arise. Cloten Scene III Cymberline

Arise, O Sun!
Let the Darkness of Night
Fade before the beams of your glorious Radiance

Midsummer, astronomically is here, and summer has started. Meteorologically speaking it has been here since the beginning of June. In Christian London celebrations were at their height on the Church’s Midsummer’s Day, 24th June, on the Vigil and Day of St John the Baptist (23rd, 24th June). Stow points the way:

‘every mans doore being shadowed with greene Birch, long Fennel, Saint John wort, Orpin, white Lillies, and such like, garnished upon with Garlands of beautiful flowers, had also Lampes of glasse, with oyle burning in them all the night, some hung out braunches of yron curiously wrought, contayning hundreds of Lampes, light at once, which made a goodly shew, namely in new Fishstreet, Thames Streets, &c’

Survey of London, John Stow

Bonfires from the night before were smouldering, where the ‘wealthier sort’ set out tables, furnished with ‘sweete beade and drinks plentifully’ where ordinary people could rub shoulders with the rich and ‘be merrie with them in great familiaritie’. There were large processions of ‘Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals, &c Wilfers, Drummers, and Fifes, ….Ensign bearers, Sword Players, Trumpeters on horseback, … Gunners, …. Archers, …Pike Men, ….Pageants, and, poor people in straw hats holding cresset lamps to make a show in exchange for a wage. All accompanying the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs each with their own Giants, Henchmen and Pageants from the Little Conduit in Cheape to Aldgate, and back via Fenchurch Street.

Midsummer was a mix of May Day, Halloween and a street festival with ‘Robin Hood games’, bale fires, the ‘summer pole’ dancing, merriment and pervading sense of he uncanny.

Distilled Wild Strawberries – a sovereign remedy against palpitations of the heart

Photo by Sergiu Nista on Unsplash.jpg

The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightly reminds us that

‘The water of these strawberries distilled is a sovereign remedy and cordial in the palpitations of the heart, that is the panting and beating thereof’

William Coles Adam in Eden 1657

Mrs Grieve tells that it is good against feverish conditions, for the stone, gout and dysentery. The fresh fruit removes discolouration of the teeth if the juice is allowed to remain on the teeth for 5 minutes (then clean the teeth with warm water and bicarbonate of soda).

Wiping the face with a cut strawberry will whiten the skin and remove slight sunburn. Tougher sunburn rub the fruit well into the skin, leaving it on for 30 minutes, wash off with warm water with a few drops of tincture of benzoin (a balsamic resin.

Warning, the remedies are ancient and I have no idea how effective they are!

The London Equinox and Solstice Walk

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower
Druids at All Hallows by the Tower

Tuesday June 21st 2022 7.30 pm Tower Hill Underground Station
(meet by the Tower Hill Tram coffee stand) |

We explore London’s History through its celebrations, festivals, calendars, almanacs and its myths and legends.

As the Sun and Moon move around our skies we look at how Londoners organised and celebrated their year throughout history.

The tour is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, Curator and Lecturer

One of the most popular forms of publication in London was the Almanac. It was full of seasonal advice, of prophecy, traditional wisdom, and important events past and future. Different cultures, religions and institutions had their own methods of organisation and celebrations. We explore the varied calendars that ruled people’s lives from the prehistoric period to the present.

On the way we look at customs, and folklore of the Celts, Romans, Saxons, and into the Medieval and Modern period. We look at different calendars such as the Pagan year, the Egyptian year, the Roman, Christian, Jewish, Church and Financial years. On the route we discover the people who lived in London and walk through fascinating areas with their deep histories.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks

To Book: click here


Brangwen A City Pageant .jpg
A City Pageant in Olden Times’, Frank Brangwen, Skinners’ Hal

17-18 June 2022: Guildhall Yard, London

This looks like it might be fun! I was hoping it would be the full recreation of the Becket Pageant in in 1519 but it a day of ‘performances inspired by the 1519 Midsummer pageant, and accompanied by a Livery Crafts Fair organised by the Skinners Company.’

Further Details are here:


Return of the Elgin Marbles – Talks Begin

(The following is the verbatum text of the Salon IFA note on this subject. My opinion is that it sounds promising but will not happen under a Conservative Government)

Under increasing pressure from Greece and UNESCO, the British government has agreed to talks about the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles, the collection of sculptures which were taken from the Parthenon in Athens in the early 19th century by the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin. At the time the ambassador claimed to have received a permit, since lost, to remove the sculptures from the Acropolis, which was then an Ottoman military fort. The excavation and removal were completed in 1812 at a personal cost to Lord Elgin, of £70,000.  The marbles were bought by the British Government in 1816 for £35,000 and placed in the British Museum.

On a visit to Britain last November, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, insisted that the statues currently in the British Museum, had been ‘stolen’. Last week at a UNESCO meeting, the debate centred on whether the sculptures had been lifted from the rubble around the monument or hacked off the walls, using marble saws, as the contemporary documents seem to suggest. The Museum’s Deputy Director, Jonathan Williams FSA said the objects were not all hacked off the building. Anthony Snodgrass FSA, Honorary President of the Committee for the Reunification of the marbles, argued that the state of preservation of t

he sculptures shows the vast majority could not have fallen 40 ft to the ground but were carefully removed and had their backs sawn off. 

The Greek Prime Minister has suggested that the Parthenon sculptures could be loaned to Greece in exchange for other artefacts including the golden Mask of Agamemnon. In January, Palermo’s archaeological museum returned a small fragment of the Parthenon frieze, depicting the foot of Artemis, to Athens’ new Acropolis Museum, on long-term loan. Plaster cast replicas currently stand in the Acropolis Museum, representing the statues in the British Museum.

Perhaps the resolution to this long-running dispute is, surprisingly, to be found in Apple’s latest technology. Recently, Oxford-based researchers from the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA), without permission – although in plain view of security – scanned 3D images of some of the sculptures using iPhones and iPads.  A ‘robot sculptor’ can now create perfect replicas, using chisels and blocks of the same Pentelic marble used by the sculptor Phidias in the 5th century BC. The 3D scans were taken using a combination

of Lidar, which uses laser lights to measure distances within a fraction of a millimetre, and photogrammetry, which stitches together multiple images of a subject.

The British Museum had refused a formal application by IDA to take the 3D scans, saying it was already using 3D scanning to reveal some of the secrets of the marbles. Roger Michel, Executive Director from the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) now hopes that the manufacture of incredibly-accurate replicas may pave the way for the original marbles to be returned.

I would be very interested to hear your views on the Elgin Marbles debate, and whether creating an identical copy helps or hinders finding a resolution to the issue. Please do write in to with your views.

Image Credits: Marble relief (Block XLVII) from the North frieze of the Parthenon, British Museum, Marble relief (block XLI) from the North frieze of the Parthenon, British Museum, Scanned 3D Image, Institute for Digital Archaeology