My meteoric debut has been greatly exaggerated!
Let’s be clear, four months ago I was not a Tour Guide. Four months ago I was running a radio station.
London Herstory Guided walks is new. I am not the first to do women themed tours and I will not be the last… I am not the best nor am I the worst but I am here and the time is now. Comparisons are not only odious but meaningless. Plus as Charles Shultz, creator of Charlie Brown found; being useless at most things does not consign you to a life of uselessness, because we ALL have something we are here to do.
As a teenager I was a ranting angry feminist. I used to have Spare Rib (the feminist magazine of the day) delivered to my door. Whilst my mates were reading Jackie and ripping out posters of Martin Kemp to plaster their walls I was raging against the machine that was capitalism and misogyny. Enter stroppy teenager laced with Greenham Common, ban the bomb, identity politics. A bundle of joy, once met never to be forgotten, all for the wrong reasons. Fast forward an undeniably long time and what do you have? A slightly maturer ranting feminist Tour Guide taking people on walking trips in London and highlighting how women have had a raw deal.
Now I don’t want you to think that I am anti men. Some of my best friends are blokes! No, that would be too polarising for words. Funny thing about the history of polarisation. I understand from a clever Doctor I follow on instagram that we have Plato and Aristotle to blame for that sort of thinking. So when George W Bush said ‘you are either with us or against us’ he was echoing the sentiments of Plats and his mate Stotty. In reality life is varying shades of grey and no I am not talking about the novel about grey things (50 of them).
So where was I? Oh yes so I was destined to tell the story of women. Told with a big helping of humour I might add cos women have needed to be creative to get a slice of the cake.
Yesterday I was on a tour in Bermondsey and we were talking about the swashbuckling pirates Annie Bonny and Mary Beard. Those two cut a fine figure of a man as they pillaged with the best of them. They both arrived on Jack Calico’s boat at the same time so it must have been a meeting of the rebels of the century. I mean, what’s a girl gotta do around here to have some fun? Well obs dress up as a pirate (outside the hours of Halloween night).
As we sat looking at the White Tower (Tower of London) I rambled on about this rebellious woman who had been what you call a ‘plain talker’. Basically telling it as it is… preaching in the streets of London Town. She asked Henry VIII (yep the Tudor nob that people are so obsessed with) for a divorce, not from him, from her own husband Thomas. Henry didn’t want to share the privilege of ‘out with the old in with the new’ so he said resounding NO. So, she carried on travelling round town talking about protestant bits and bobs. Finally after a couple of arrests and being sent back to Lancashire they put her in the tower. To the tower for torture.
Only two women have ever been tortured in that tower. The head of torture treatments (probably had an official name like Lieutenant or some other fancy bollocks to camouflage his real job - Murderous Thug)! Ran out of the tower in-between racking her (yes they put her on the rack) to seek pardon from the King. Henry who was busy swiping right (or is it left) for the latest bride said ‘carry on, you are pardoned’ so they stretched her out till she ripped into bits, her hips were pulled from the sockets and her knees and elbows dislocated and then they took her to Smithfield to burn her alive. What they wanted was for her to drop Catherine Parr in it. Rumour had it Catherine was quite interested in the new religion of Protestantism and there was an inside plot to turn Henry against her. The woman who was racked and burnt alive was only 25 years old, she showed tremendous courage and bravery and never gave any other names away (including Catherine Parr who miraculously kept her head). That strong twenty five year old woman was Anne Askew, I am her descendant....
There’s so much more to say, come on a tour.