No 19. Beadle about Burlington Arcade and No 193. Listen to an Oration at Speaker’s Corner

14 Oct

Moving to South East London has made me lazy, but with the prospect of starting work after maternity leave looming, I’ve been trying to make the most of my weekends.

So on a sunny Sunday a couple of weeks ago, we went into town for a 1000 Things To Do outing.

First we paid a visit to Burlington Arcade, partly because it seemed like quite a relaxed one to do with a baby in tow and partly because it’s at the start of the book and I’ve been curious about it for a while.

The entrance (and a double decker!)

The entrance (and a double decker!)

Burlington Arcade opened in 1819 in the heart of Mayfair and is an arched walkway selling luxury goods. There’s a red carpet running down the middle which gives it a lovely, glamorous feel and a smell like expensive talc in the air. It’s not a place for bargain shopping. One of the shops offers vintage Rolexes personalised by birth year but you can pick up a Lulu Guiness bag for under £100 (ok, it’s the smallest bag they have but still…) and if all else fails you can pick up some delicate macarons from Laduree.

Sparkly Laduree

Sparkles and macarons at Laduree

Given it’s central location it is unusually peaceful. And for a city with a very fast pace and very little patience, there are no speedy walkers here because it’s not allowed.  And if you do decide to speed through you’ll be stopped by a very polite man in a top hat.

The Burlington Arcade Beadles, London’s oldest and smallest police force, watch over the arcade and make sure the original laws are enforced. These include no hurrying, no whistling, no singing, no carrying large packages and no open umbrellas.

Friendly Beadle (Amaya wasn't too sure)

Friendly Beadle (Amaya wasn’t too sure)

We met one of these lovely chaps who was happy to chat away about the Arcade. He told us the red carpet was going, that he loved the job and the history of the place, and that posh boys loved to walk down the Arcade whistling or singing and waiting to be reprimanded. If you do go here, make sure you have a quick natter with a Beadle.

Inside...

Inside – remember the rules…

We then took a short walk to our next destination.  Our little one is on the move now so parks are one of our new favourite places to go and what better London greenery to introduce her to than Hyde Park.

I love the British ability to make the most of an unexpected sunny day. Deckchairs were out, people were having a picnic and as always on a Sunday, there were some feisty exchanges at Speaker’s Corner.

Located near the Marble Arch entrance, Angela Merkel once described Speaker’s Corner as “legendary, the very symbol of free speech”. We often take that for granted in this country. If anything, Speaker’s Corner is often quite comical. I saw a Muslim man standing on his Speaker’s Corner stool and addressing the crowd but he kept getting heckled by an elderly Christian man in the crowd who disagreed with pretty much everything he said.  It was basically a face-off between these two men arguing about what the Koran and Bible says.

Heckling Speaker's Corner

Heated exchanges at Speaker’s Corner

The tradition of Speaker’s Corner started in 1866 after public riots demanded a “right to speak”. It’s easy to forget there are still countries around the world where such an exchange could never take place.  In spite of the humour of that morning, it reminded me how incredibly lucky we are that every Sunday morning, we can get up on a stool in a public park and get on our soapbox about anything bothering us. The comedy factor you often get is an added bonus.

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