Bizarre London: Discover the Capital’s Secrets & Surprises by David Long is my second non-fiction in my quest (but, not New Year’s Resolution) to read a wider range of books this year. Combining two of my favourite things, fairly useless facts and London, Long took me on a gloriously trivial gander at my nation’s capital.
A charming gift book of the strangest and most intriguing stories of London.
A fascinating tour of London’s strangest and most intriguing locations. Ranging from architectural evidence of past incidents and stories of life beneath the city, to anecdotes of magic, mystery, and murder, this is a perfect companion for anyone curious about London. Synopsis from GoodReads.
Embarrassing confessions: this book has taught me how to spell bizarre. It never stuck before, I was convinced it should be bizaar; which, as it turns out, is an album by Insane Clown Posse.
Back to Bizarre London; while at times it felt a little long in a mostly snippets of facts format, there was nothing dull about this book. I wouldn’t, however, recommend reading it all in one go as I did. It is perfect to dive into or read chapter at a time, I found reading in one sitting to be overwhelming due to the sheer volume of interesting facts Long provides.
He covers a number of topics, from Gruesome to Esoteric – these are a few of my favourites:
- If you hear ‘Inspector Sands’ at the Tube station it is “a coded warning to station staff of an incident – possibly fire or a suspect package – somewhere at the station.”
- Oswald Laurence for the Northern Line for 40 years, eventually being phased out. That was until his widowed wife requested it be brought back so she could hear his voice.
- The Queen is a pigeon fancier, with over 250 birds – each as a leg ring marked with ‘ER’.
- HM Edward VII (Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather) liked to watch buildings on fire.
- The following things were created in London: Scotch Eggs, Tinned Food, Chicken Tikka Masala, Wedding Cake, Fish and Chips, Flushing Toilets and Twiglets. If you don’t know what Twiglets are, you’re missing out.
- The term ‘Plod’ used for Policemen came from Enid Blyton’s village policeman. Literary fact for you there.
- “Golf can be played on Wimbledon Common but only by individuals wearing a red outer garment.”
- Bridget Driscoll was the first woman (in London) to be killed by a car. This happened at Crystal Palace, the car was going 4mph.
- ‘Kojak with a Kodak‘ is London Cabbie Slang for a “policeman hiding behind a tree or lamppost with a speed gun.”
- MPs are forbidden from swearing in Parliament or from throwing personal insults.
- One the last Sunday of February there is a Clown Service, this is in memory of clown prince Joseph Grimaldi. “The service takes place at Holy Trinity, Dalston, the official Church of the International Clowns’ Club, and costume and make-up are considered mandatory for those attending.”
These facts are just scraping the barrel of the fantastic facts you could learn!