Good morning all and welcome to the first day of our historical tour of historic Britain.
We start our tour in the very historic city of London, which has a lot of history, some of which I will be telling you about today. On your left – unless you are sitting at the back of the bus, in which case it’s on your right – you will see the very historic Monument. This is a monument, as the name does imply, and it is a monument to the Great Fire of London, which happened in olden times. The fire started when some flea-ridden rats ate the pies in a pudding shop in Baker Street, and it was written about by the very famous writer Samuel Pepys, who lived in London at the time and had sex with many of the inhabitants. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the pronunciation of his name, it’s pronounced ‘Sam-yew-ell’. The fire burnt down all of London except St. Paul’s Cathedral, which you can just see through that tiny gap in the office blocks there, and everybody had to go and live in Surrey while Sir Christopher Wren built a new one. Moving on, and we come next to the even more historic Tower of London, which isn’t that huge tower you can see in front of you, it’s that thing that looks like a castle to your right. The other one is Canary Wharf, so called because of all the canaries that used to live there. Of course, they’ve all gone now .. it’s all mynah birds and exotic parrots now. The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror, although historians believe he may have had help, maybe a few brickies, possibly a plasterer, and he used it to lock people up in. Unfortunately, he lost the key, and as a result the people he locked up couldn’t get out and nobody else could get in, and as a result the little Princes in the Tower starved to death. Since then they have the Ceremony of the Keys every night, to make sure they don’t get lost again. You may possibly be able to see the very historic ravens of the tower there, walking about, and it is said that if ever the ravens fly off, the bloke who keeps their wings clipped will get the the sack. Just down there you can see the famous Traitor’s Gate, so called because Anthony Burgess once had an assignation with Kim Philby under it.
Now we are going to go over the very historic Tower Bridge, which was built so that pictures of the Thames would look ever so much prettier, and just up the river you can see London Bridge … it’s not the real one, of course. The real one was stolen and taken off to America by John Paul Jones, who later founded the famous and very historic Led Zeppelin, which dropped bombs on London in the First World War. The real one is in America as I say, and it can be seen in historic New York, where it is now called the Brooklyn Bridge … this one here is just a replica.
Over Tower Bridge and into historic Bermondsey, which is famous for … um … well, my Auntie Dolly lives there … ooh, look, there’s HMS Belfast. This very historic ship was once commanded by Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Jutland against the Spanish Armada, and if you look very closely you can see the spot where he had his bowls shot off. Into historic Southwark now, and it was from a historic pub in Southwark, the Tankard, that the famous London to Canterbury pub-crawl used to start. The great writer Geoffrey Chaucer wrote all about it, and told lots of stories on the trip, which he put in a book called The Canterbury Tales of the Unexpected. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember all the stories, due to being drunk all the way, so his very historic book was never actually finished, which was a bit unexpected, as it happens. Even more historic than Chaucer is the very great and very, very historic writer William Shakespeare, who lived originally in Stratford, but came to live in London to make his fortune. Of course these days he could just commute in on the Jubilee Line. And here in Southwark we have the actual Globe Theatre, where so many of Shakespeare’s plays were produced, great works like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Tempest’, ‘The Comedy of the Winter’s Tale’, ‘Twelve Merry Nights of Windsor’, ‘Much Ado About Love’s Labours’, various Henries, and many more. As the Bard himself wrote: “Who would fardels bear, out with a bare bodkin, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, and stay not upon the order of your going?” And I think we can all find a real meaning in that.
Moving on now, and here is Waterloo, which of course is where the very historic Duke of Marlborough beat Napoleon in the famous and historic battle. After the battle a memorial was built on the site, but was later turned into a railway station. A little further on we can see the historic South Bank, home of the National Theatre, where the very historic Melvyn Bragg usewd to give his famous show every night; it was the longest running show in London, and all the audiences were sworn to secrecy about the ending. Although I heard Harold Pinter did it.
Back over the Thames, and in front of us you can see the historic Embankment, which is so called because the historic Bank of England used to be here before it was moved to Wales. To your left you can see Charing Cross, which is called after Queen Eleanor, who had to be carried about in a chair all the time, and everywhere she stopped they built a cross, hence chairing cross. Crossing now into historic Trafalgar Square, named of course after the Duke of Wellington’s greatest victory, when he beat two hundred thousand Zulus, despite being armed only with machine guns. Unfortunately the noble Duke died in the moment of victory, despite attempts at mouth to mouth resuscitation, and so they named this square after him, even though there is as you can see a statue of Napoleon on top of that big column there. On the right hand side you will see the very historic National Gallery, home to such historic paintings as Gainsborough’s Blue Constable, Temeraire’s Fighting Turner, and Rubens’ famous Fat Naked Ladies With Fortuitous Gauze.
Onward into Piccadilly Circus, although there is of course no circus here any more. It was closed down in Victorian times by Prince Albert; the historic prince couldn’t abide cruelty to elephants, and he said he could think of better uses for a ring anyway. The last time wild animals were seen in Piccadilly Circus was in 1977, after Scotland beat England at Wembley. Moving on down Piccadilly we come to Hyde Park Corner, so called because it is at the corner of Green Park, and on your right you can see historic Apsley House, the boyhood home of England’s greatest general, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell of course had his head chopped off by King Charles the Second, who was very historic, and kept several dogs, including Nell Gwynn. Talking of kings, we are now approaching the amazingly historic Buckingham Palace, home of our present Queen , who – I’m sorry, dear, what? – no, David Beckham doesn’t live there. Well, I’m sorry if that’s what they told you at the agency, but they are wrong. Some people just don’t do the proper research, you know. Where was I? Oh, yes, Buckingham Palace, which you can see … behind you, was built by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria, but unfortunately he strained himself, putting up the pelmets, and died. Queen Victoria then lived for eighty years all on her own, dressed only in a black wedding dress, until she was shaken out of it by a Scotsman with a big caber. Today you can always tell when the Queen is at home, because she puts the washing out on the line. Buckingham Palace is today famous for its garden parties, or ‘raves’, as we call them.
Finally we come to Westminster, so called because it’s up West and has a minster, which is the home of our government. The rather gash building on the right is historic Westminster Abbey, built by Edward the Confessor so he had somewhere to go to confession. Many famous people are buried in Westminster Abbey, including Charles Darwin, the discoverer of Australia, such bits of Nelson as hadn’t been shot off by the French, Nelson’s second in command Thomas Hardy, Jane Austin and William Morris, inventors of the motor car, Isaac Newton the famous fisherman, and in Poet’s Corner, of course, Michael Faraday-Lewis. Up ahead you can see the historic Houses of Parliament and the tower of Big Ben. Now, actually, Big Ben isn’t the name of the clock. It’s the nickname of the Prime Minister who designed it, Benjamin Disraeli. Every year Big Ben rings in the New Year, and in fact it isn’t officially the New Year until it has chimed twelve times. One year it only chimed eleven times, and it was 1955 for three years running, but nobody noticed. In the Houses of Parliament the government of the day passes all the laws, and every week the Prime Minister has to stand up and not answer questions. It’s a little known fact that if the Leader of the Opposition catches the Prime Minister out in a lie, the Prime Minister has to immediately resign, but so far this has never actually happened. MPs are of course allowed to throw custard pies in the House of Commons, but only when nobody’s looking. That bit there is called the House of Lords, but nobody knows what it’s for. And at last we come to historic number 10 Downing Street, where David Cameron lives. The head of the government, of course, lives next door in number 11. Many historic people have lived here, including William Gladstone, inventor of the leather bag, Pitt the Older who was famous for being very old, Pitt the Younger, who was famous for being very young, John Major, who was famous for being very stupid, and Bonar Law, who wasn’t famous at all, even when he was Prime Minister. The most famous and historic Prime Minister was of course the very famous Sir Winston Churchill, who made many famous and historic speeches including “We shall fight them in the breeches, or fill up the walls with English dead”, “Never has so much been owed by so few to so many Americans”, and of course “Who do you think you are kidding, Mister Hitler?”.
Right, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our tour for this morning; I do hope you found it interesting and informative. Now if you would all like to proceed to the fully inclusive booked lunch at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Charing Cross Station, and then we will reconvene at two o’clock for the second part of the tour, which will be ‘Stonehenge and the Bronte Country’. Thank-you very much.