Stanley Green, the Protein Man of Oxford Street February 22nd

Stanley Green, the Protein Man, in Oxford Street, London, 1977 CC by 4.0 Deed

I was failing to find anything of significance to post (an Ordinary Day as Ovid calls them), when I came across a London Walks post about Stanley Green. Green was born on 22nd February in 1915. Most people who lived in London, knew of him, as he was, always to be seen patrolling Oxford Street and other Central London Streets with his placard. He was a one-man campaign to warn people that protein was a factor in promoting Lust, and Lust was a bad thing. He campaigned, religiously, from 1969 to 1993, when he died.

Whether you agree with his views or not it doesn’t diminish the impact an ordinary person had on an entire City. For more about him, including a podcast, have a look at the London Walks page here:

Another one man campaigner, Mr Stop Brexit, Steve Bray, was to be seen outside Parliament, most days in 2018 and 2019 and continues to campaign. He perfected various photobombing techniques so that he would appear in the background in interviews of prominent Brexit campaigners, or was heard over his megaphone. He is from Splott in Wales, and said he lost all his friends because they supported Brexit.

Steve Bray, also known as Stop Brexit Man. (Wikipedia CC0)
Steve Bray, also known as Stop Brexit Man. (Wikipedia CC0)

Here, you can see him upstaging one of the people who ruined this country, the dreadful Jacob Rees-Mogg

I must admit, I briefly considered dedicating my life to attending events Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke at, and shouting ‘Brexit Opportunities! That went well didn’t it?’ and collapsing in ironic laughter.

Boxing Day & St Stephens Day December 26th

St Stephens, Walbrook. Unusual photo taken during building work. The part of the Church to the right is much ‘cruder’ because Christopher Wren was saving money by not ‘finishing off’ parts that could not be seen from the public thoroughfare. Photo by the Author in 2008

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

It is the Feast day of St Stephen, the day when Wrens could be hunted.. He is the first Christian Martyr and was stoned to death not long after Jesus’ apotheosis. It is the day people used to give presents (Boxes) particularly to servants and people who have helped out. Other days for presents include Dec 6th, St Nicholas’s Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Twelfth Night and any other day, Night, Eve (or Morn) you fancy.

Swedish Choir singing in St Stephen’s London – I was taking them around the City of London on a guided walk, and we happened to find St Stephen’s open, and they just fancied the acoustics.
Picture of Christmas greenery on a gift box
by Tjana Drndarski-via unsplash

In 1858 James Ewing Richie wrote about ‘Boxing Night’ in The Night Side of London. I’ve mixed it with another source to give a list of the people who came knocking at the door for the traditional Boxing Day Box.

Richie’s advice was to tie up your knocker as these people would come and knock on it:

The Sweep; Varlets playing French Horns pretending to be the Waits – The Waits were licensed musical beggars.

Then came the Turncock, the Postman, the Dustman; the Road Waterer in summer, and the Road Scrapper in Winter. After this the real Waits turned up for a musical turn. Then the Lamplighter, the Grocer’s Boy and the Butcher’s Boy.

I imagine the Knocker-upper also got a Box. My grandmother told me about the knocker-upper in Old Street in the early Twentieth Century.

Google search image 'knocker-upper', the lady at top left worked in Limehouse
Google search image ‘knocker-upper’, the lady at top left worked in Limehouse and is using a pea-shooter.

Richie says he had to give 6 people, who wished him a Happy Christmas on his way to work, half a crown each. He thought his wife would be lucky to get away with a shilling per person for the list above. His belief was that it would all do more harm than good as it would be spent on drink leading to the miseries of drunkenness.

First Published on Dec 26th 2022, Republished December 2023


Christmas with Jane Austen Walk, Tour & Podcast

1803 Christmas Cartoon of Napoleon and Mr and Mrs John Bull
By William Holland 1803

Saturday 23rd December. Walk at 2.30pm, Virtual Tour at 7.30pm

We look at London Austen’s London and at how Jane Austen spent Christmas and at Georgian Christmas traditions and amusements.

Here is a short podcast about the walk and Regency Christmas traditions.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen devotee in possession of the good fortune of a couple of free hours must be in want of this virtual walk.”

This is a special walk, which looks at the traditions of Christmas during the Regency period and how Jane Austen might have celebrated it. It will give some background to Jane Austen’s life and her knowledge of London. We used her novels and her letters to find out what she might have done at Christmas, but also at how Christmas was kept in this period, and the range of ‘Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments, and Remarkable Objects in and near London available to enjoy.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk by Kevin Flude, Museum Curator and Lecturer.

Review: ‘Thanks, again, Kevin. These talks are magnificent!’

To Book:

You might like to have a look at my Almanac of the Past. I have revised and updated the following posts:

A History of the Roman Empire in 21 women

Below, I give links to the Late November and early December Posts I have revised and republished. But, first, I would like to tell you about a great lecture I heard at the British Museum, this evening. It was given by Dr Emma Southon on her book about women in the Roman Empire. Her viewpoint was that a study of women in the Roman Empire gives a radically different insight into the Roman world than the traditional. One full of humanity rather than normal evidence which is, generally, about wars, and Empires and bravery and horrific cruelty and ambition and honour. She started with the story of Turia, whose extraordinary epitaph on her tombstone miraculous survived and gave her husband’s view of his extraordinary wife, and his utter sorrow at his loss on her death. Below, is a review of the book and a link to a podcast with the Author.

So, here are the December posts. December 1st and 2nd give an overview of December and the meaning of Winter. December 3rd is about Advent and the fact that you were not allowed to marry during Advent. December 4 gives a Shakespearean view of a cold winter’s day, and a composition by Vaughan Williams.

And late November posts, November 28th tells some interesting tales, both ancient and modern, about Eels, Pies, Rock ‘n’ Roll and my horror of Jellied Eels. November 29th, tells you how to make a ‘dish of snow’ and introduces Ice Houses. November 30th is about Scotland and St Andrews. Like them if you like them! And share them if you want to share them.

The Great British Smog December 5th 1952

Image from Facebook

It was on this day, in 2022, that I read, in the Guardian Newspaper, that life expectancy in the UK is reducing for the first time in 200 years, (and that in parts of the UK it has gone down by 10 years during the time of austerity) it is also the anniversary of the Great Smog of 1952.

I’m tempted to say don’t read any more of this and listen to the BBC’s excellent episode of ‘Inside Science: Killer Smog’ instead (or if you cannot use BBC Sounds, then go to the link to a Podcast at the bottom of the piece) Both pieces are based on the work of Dr. Gary Fuller of King’s College, London, detailed in his book ‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer’.

But, if you are still with me, what happened in 1952 changed Britain forever, but Fuller makes it clear it did not change Britain enough. What happened was that a terrible smog developed which lasted for a week, beginning on Dec 5th 1952. It killed probably 12,000 people and the hospitals, the emergency services, the mortuaries, the funeral parlours had more work to do than during the Blitz or the Cholera epidemics. Higher deaths than normal were still occurring as late as January 1953,

What changed Britain was that it finally persuaded people that coal-polluted air was a killer. People had debated it since the Victorian period, but did very little about it, some even believing smoke was good for you. After 1952, it was clear what a killer smog was. In 1956, a reluctant government introduced the Clean Air Act which established zones where only smokeless fuels could be used, and other measures including dispersal of polluting industries from the towns, and taller chimneys. This eventually cleared up the problem.

Job done, or so we all thought. Dr Gary Fuller tells us that we are incapable of dealing with more than one pollution threat at a time. In 1962, another smog, created by sulphur dioxide pollution, killed perhaps 1,000 people in London. And London still has a lot of air pollution, not just from traffic fumes, and it is still killing people.

Traffic pollution in London is being dealt with more aggressively, partly as a response to a brave coroner who found that a 9-year-old girl, Ella Kissi-Debrah, died because of air pollution. (girls-death-contributed-to-by-air-pollution-coroner-rules-in-landmark-case). The London Mayor is finally addressing this issue by, first creating and then expanding, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, to encompass all the London Boroughs. This has been very controversial as it has meant many people having to sell cars that do not meet the standard. It has an unfortunate byproduce which was that it enables the unpopular Conservative Party hanging on, by the skin of their teeth, to Boris Johnson’s old constituency. Results in other by-elections and opinion polls suggested they would lose it. Since, then, the Rishi Sunak Government has gone full petrol head, rowing back on Climate Change targets in various areas.

Another front against car pollution are the Local Traffic Neighbourhoods which were set up by local authorities using COVID-19 legislation to introduce traffic reduction methods by blocking off many neighbourhood roads from through traffic. These have been fought tooth and nail by its opponents, but generally has not affected local government elections.

But much less well known are other threats. For example, there is an increasing threat from trendy wood burning stoves which are very polluting, and yet their sales are soaring as people seek ways of mitigating soaring post-Ukraine war electricity prices. Agriculture is very polluting too, with fertiliser, and manure mixing with urban pollution to create dangerous particulates. It turns out that the most polluting time of the year is not Autumn, nor Winter but Spring because of this agricultural activity.

The 1952 episode was created by a temperature inversion which kept a blanket of cold damp air over London, stopping pollutants being dispersed and blown away. What made it such a killer was that Britain, in post-war austerity (this time introduced by the Labour Party) meant that we were exporting our top grade coals and allowing domestic users to use terrible stuff called ‘nutty slack’ which was sludge, dust, and fragments of very low grade and therefore very smokey coal. 18% of the coal used was domestic, but it contributed 60% to the emissions. The fog was yellow and sulphuric, transport was halted as no one could see beyond their hands in front of their faces, and people had to leave cinemas because no one could see the screens.

Following our second (Conservative induced) austerity our systems are in collapse, ambulances, hospitals, water supplies in a terrible condition. Our water companies are pumping sewage into our rivers and seas, a vast tide of Food banks and warm spaces trying to help people in their bitter choices between eating and heating, and the Government has closed down the infrastructures that helped us through the COVID-19 crisis.

We need to stop being short-sighted, not just ‘solving’ one problem before moving onto the next. We need a fundamental revision of our systems to allow us to enjoy the last two of the four freedoms so eloquently expressed by Roosevelt (the subject of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures):

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

Air Pollution Podcast click here:

First Published on December 5th 2022, Revised and republished on December 5th 2023.


View From Edinburgh Castle
View From Edinburgh Castle

This is the Podcast for the Virtual Tour of Edinburgh

To find out or book for the Edinburgh walk and other walks this week end click here

A Virtual Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain. No.5 Edinburgh

Monday 2 May 2022 7 pm

A Virtual Walk Through the Athens of the North

Borrowing my title from Daniel Defoe’s early chorography, my first Circuit is from Chester to Edinburgh. Now on the last stop on this first circuit we are taking a virtual tour of the most extraordinary City – Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a very unusual City as it was built on the saddle of a hill so its main street runs down the ridge of a hill and the City falls away on either side. This lack of flat land and restricted space led to the City growing upwards. This gave the City an extraordinary density and an unique atmosphere that we will be exploring.

In the Georgian period the City was extended with the addition of a new town quarter which was rationally planned and made a marked contrast on the old Town. Together it gives the Capital of Scotland, a combination of atmospheric and claustrophobic town planning with the elegance of a City that was one of the great Cities of the Enlightenment.

We will begin the virtual walk in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat at the shiny new Scottish Parliament and walk up the Royal Mile from Holyrood to Tollboth, to the Netherbow and onto the Castle at the pinnacle of the City

To Book:


Conwy Estuary from the Castle, looking towards Deganwy to the North

Monday 7th March 2022 7.00 pm

See the gateway to Snowdonia and its magnificent Medieval Castle, Town and Bridges

Borrowing my title from Daniel Defoe’s early chorography, my first circuit is from Chester to Edinburgh. Now on our second stop we are taking a virtual tour of the gateway to North Wales – the delightful town of Conwy.

For a small town Conwy has everything – an absolutely magnificent Medieval Castle, a City Wall that is still intact around the entire Circuit. Some of the great feats of bridge and tunnel engineering, and a pocket sized town containing historic buildings, nice pubs, and the ‘smallest house in Great Britain.’

It is not only picturesque but was a settlement of enormous strategic importance in the invasions by the Romans and the English. And to finish the tour we will take a small excursion into Snowdonia to see what it guarded

To Book: