I am a lifelong walker … call me a cheapskate but I always thought why hail a taxi, catch the tube or ride the bus when you can walk. That sets you on a different path. For a start if you are anything like me you end up going down little alleyways (don’t try this at night folks) but daytime Marylebone is generally ok. So one little alleyway I squeezed myself through (those lockdown biscuits have taken their toll) I came out the other side in what can only be described as a Victorian enclave. A ragged school sign and imposing workhouse style buildings with tiny windows towered over me and on further inspection I realised I had gone through the entrance to an 18th century pleasure garden! Bejesus where was I? I expected a tiny thieving nipper to shoot out of the shadows and nick me wallet or a tin plate to be shoved in my face and a voice to say ‘please sir can I have some more’!
When I showed an eager group of Herstory Reclaimers (that’s my novel description for my punters) they were licking their lips with excitement. Not in a Hannibal lector style creepy way but a ‘wait til I tell them at home where I’ve been’ licking lips sort of way.
I am not an Historian nor am I a Blue Badge London Guide. My specialist subject is not Kings and Queens of England, although I do take a special interest in the 6 uncontested Queen Regnants.
What you do get with one of my walks is a romp through an altogether more colourful history with a few up to date tales thrown in. I suspect the purists amongst you will be hot footing it to Donnish Tours and their sister company Tell me everything about the Tudors. I prefer to tell you about the lass who worked her way up from maid to Lady and finally mistress of Nelson (the bloke on a column in Trafalgar square). On that note they named their love child Horatia so no one was in any doubt who Daddy was. Funny, you don’t hear of anyone else with that name. That is like the 18th century version of Adele no need to use your surname. It used to be the case with Kylie but sadly we now have to pop the Minogue on the end…lest we mix her up with some other dynasty.
So back to my storytelling…. I like to march through the streets with more than a ounce of determination. We go forth in search of those women who have laid the very essence of female emancipation in an attempt to blockade the toxic masculinity of domination. They haven’t always been angels (remember the either or quotes of the early 1600s namely you are either angel or whore) instead they were bombastic badasses who refused to take it all on the chin…women know your place eh - NOT!
I will finish with a quote by one of my heroes… Anne Bonny was a pirate in the early 1700s working in the region of the Caribbean with Calico Jack Rackham (think Depp minus the eyeliner) and his men. Anne fought with the best of them but on one occasion she was on deck fighting whilst a few of the men were below deck presumably cowering… not only did she fire below deck killing one of the ‘cowards’ (sic) but she then later said to Rackham in prison ‘I’m sorry to see you here, but if you’d fought like a man, you need not have hanged like a dog’. Ouch!
If I had my virtual dinner party this Easter time I would have Anne sitting next to Rosa Lewis (hotelier and eccentric East Ender), Ethel Smyth the forgotten Composer who was terribly unlucky in love (I hear ya sister), Sylvia Pankhurst (the daughter of Emmeline who thought working class girls should get the vote too - radical eh) and finally Adelaide Hall nightclub owner and Forces sweetheart whose bravery has been shamelessly underreported. Oh and I almost forgot, a favourite with my walkers Nancy Wake the most decorated war hero.
Over to you - who would you have at yours?