Friday, April 14, 2006

Walkin' in the rain

A co-worker invited me to meet her for a guided walk called Hidden London this morning. We met at The Monument, an imposing structure erected to commemorate the rebuilding of the city after the great fire of 1666 (not, as our guide pointed out, to commemorate the fire, because who'd want to do that?). It rained pretty much the entire time we were out, and it was kind of cold, but it seemed to underscore the theme of the tour quite appropriately.

Our guide took us up a narrow lane near the old fish market, which at one time employed Sir Michael Caine and George Orwell as fish porters. (Charming, no?) The lane also illustrated how closed and cramped old London was -- and how easily disease would spread because people would just toss waste out the window into the open sewer running down the street. This is where we think the British expression loo came from, because people (if they were nice) would shout out "Gardez l'eau" ("Watch out for the water") before they threw the waste out.

The tour also included several churches (almost all of which were closed) including St. Clement's and St. James Garlickhithe, and some that were destroyed in the Blitz and are now just paved over squares. I also learned the origin and meaning of the term, "at sixes and sevens," which to my dismay is NOT in the English to American Dictionary. It refers to a couple of guilds who would always argue over which was the sixth guild to be founded. So the Lord Mayor decreed that they would alternate years; one year one would be six, and the next it would be seven. In the current lexicon, it means to be in a quandary.

By the time I got back to the flat, it was sunny and warm. Figures! But I highly recommend a two-hour walking tour from this group.


Anonymous The Old Man From Scene 24 said...

Why would people in London, England shout, in French, "Gardez l'eau" instead of "watch out for the bloody water, mate" ?

5:59 PM  
Blogger Middle Kid said...

Yeah! That's a good question, old man.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the summer you should take a trip to the country, the Cotswolds are lovely. I'd love to hear your take on some of the quaint villages.
Also have you tried marmite yet? Love it or hate it?

8:53 PM  
Blogger cornhuskerblogger said...

"the lord mayor decrees"...damn it's good to be the lord mayor.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...


I've been out cycling in Hertfordshire. That's beautiful. I can only assume the Cotswolds exceed that.

I've had Vegemite and thought it was awful (and there's very little food that I don't like). Marmite is much the same, correct?

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Kitkat said...

You should love the Cotswolds, it's very chocolate box and a little touristy, but just how you imagine good old England to be. (And not far from London)

Yep, I think you'll hate marmite; I think you've had to be a marmite baby, as they're called in Britain, to handle the taste!

12:56 PM  
Blogger whispers said...

Thanks for the tip about the London Walks. Could be useful.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

The Old Man From Scene 24 said...

Why would people in London, England shout, in French, "Gardez l'eau" instead of "watch out for the bloody water, mate" ?

Um, remember the Battle of Hastings?

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for explaining "sixes and sevens" -- that was performing a public service, as far as I'm concerned

4:29 AM  
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