So it went like this:
Tour guide: “…and this is a great example of the Adam style of architecture.”
We were in one of the wee roads off The Strand, running south, down to the Thames.
Me: “Oh yes, is that Douglas Adams?”
Nanoseconds after it escaped from my mouth I blushed puce. It was too late.
Tour guide: (not one eyebrow hair moved heaven-ward) “No, that would be the writer, Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – also noteworthy, but this one is without the ‘s’ – James or Robert would do - a couple of architect brothers”.
I hadn’t wanted to go on that bloody bike tour in the first place but I was looking for a bit of history to feed into my Soho food walking tour. It was a blustery Sunday morning and the rain thrashed about in horizontal sheets. This was the day the sea gobbled up the train line from London to Cornwall and sandbags perched idiotically along the coast in fraught attempts to halt the destruction wrought by the weather. And this was the day I’d booked to do a half day cycling tour of London’s Westminster “Firsts”.
I wanted to pull out, of course I did, but I’d committed and that was that. I imagined the tour guide anxiously checking his watch, delaying the group’s departure and then finally leaving, late now, ten minutes after schedule when he finally realised a warm bed had claimed another tour participant. So I went.
Somehow, miraculously, after my terrible gaff, the sideways blankets of water subsided for a brief window and we were able to tour around Embankment, Covent Garden, Soho and Pall Mall with our wet weather gear getting a decent workout, but without being blown into a ditch, or a pub.
This is actually a really great tour and one I’d highly recommend if you just want a little extra historical perspective on Britain, and London in particular. As the theme is ‘firsts’, you swing by the home of the first female to sit in Parliament, the site where electricity first powered a public theatre performance and the first street to be designated ‘one way’ in London. Lots of colour and interest.
The tours are run periodically by “Cycle Confident”, to help people feel confident about riding around the more peopled areas of central London. They’re not particularly regular, so check out the website for details of upcoming tours. They operate several different tours on different themes.
Our guide, Charlie, was delightful and discreet, though I’m sure he went straight home to his wife and told her of the ‘daft Australian’ who thought the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy moonlighted as a neoclassical architect in the 18th century.
1 -3 Brixton Road,