This day in London’s History
1985: Conservative MP Ivan Lawrence made the longest parliamentary speech of the 20th Century. The filibusting backbencher had the house hanging on his every word for 4 hours and 23 minutes, as he argued the case against fluoridating tap water.
1835: 150 years before this supreme act of word creation came the opposite: the complete destruction of a large number of words. On March 6, philosopher John Stuart Mill paid a visit to the Chelsea home of his friend Thomas Carlyle to return a book. Not just any old book, but the draft copy of Carlyle’s masterpiece The French Revolution. Imagine the author’s horror when Mill handed over a few charred and torn pages of the tome. Mill had the ever-so-slightly embarrassing task of explaining to the apoplectic Carlyle that his maid had mistaken the great work for rubbish, and used it to light a fire. Carlyle had destroyed his own notes, so had to start writing again from scratch. The moral; neither a lender nor a borrower be, even to the cleverest of men.
London fact of the week
Have you ever discovered Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly? It’s that covered walkway of toff shops, dating from 1819, next to the Royal Academy. The arcade is open for anyone to wander down, so long as you ‘uphold standards of courtesy, quiet and decorum’. A sign at the entrance proscribes any singing or humming, running, dancing or opening of umbrellas. So don’t expect to bump into Gene Kelly. As befits an institution of such elegance, the bouncers are a class apart. Uniformed beadles patrol the arcade in Edwardian dress, looking out for trouble-makers. Hoodies very much not allowed.
London person of the week
Sir Ming/Menzies/Mingsies Campbell. New Lib Dem leader who, unlike many in his party, seemingly has no skeletons in his closest. That’s despite being a dead ringer for the skeleton off of those old Scotch video tape adverts.
One thing you must do in London this week
A trip to the National Portrait Gallery is a must over the next few weeks. As part of the celebrations for its 150th birthday, the gallery is hosting an exhibition celebrating the life and times of Shakespeare. Afterwards, take a visit upstairs to their rooftop restaurant for stunning views towards Westminster. Make sure you book ahead, though.