This day in London’s History
1945: VE day. Thousands, nay, millions, of Londoners gathered on the Mall and in Trafalgar Square for perhaps the greatest celebration the world has ever seen. Lots of flag waving. Those famous shots of the royal family and Winston Churchill on the Palace balcony. Pomp and circumstance, whatever those are. Ah, they don’t make days like that any more.
1968: The Kray twins were arrested on a number of charges. Soon after they were put away for life. To this day, East-enders delight in remarking upon all the things that ‘wouldn’t have happened when Ronnie and Reggie was in charge’.
1984: Thames barrier officially opened.
1999: Sir Dirk Bogarde dies in London
Putney is an auspicious place to be on May 8. In 1737 Edward Gibbon, the man behind the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (the books, not the actual centuries-long disintegration – we can’t blame him for that) was born. Two hundred and ten years later, Putney was also the setting for the death of shopping baron Harry Gordon Selfridge.
London fact of the week
For all those men who regularly lament being dragged round department stores by their shoppier halves, blame Mr Selfridge. He practically invented the concept of shopping for pleasure, when he opened his famous Oxford Street store in 1909. The new store contained restaurants, a library and quiet spaces, all aimed at making the shopping experience as pleasurable as possible. Selfridge is also credited with the phrases ‘shopping days till Christmas’ (now defunct) and ‘the customer is always right’ (now mostly defunct).
London person of the week
No question. It’s The Sultan, for introducing the town to his time-traveling elephant.
One thing you must do in London this week
If you can still get a ticket, the London Debate at London Studios, SE1, should be worth a look on Wednesday. This is the public’s chance to interrogate Ken Livingstone under the glare of TV cameras. Alternatively, just watch it at home if you’re not too posh for ITV.
One thing you must not do in London this week
Keep saying ‘oh, I wish I’d been to see that now’ if you missed the elephant. You are a fool of the first order. Now be off with you.