Arthur Bryant, Tour Guide
In ‘Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour’ I’ve punctuated the chapters with chunks of the speeches Arthur Bryant gives as a London tour guide, and it made me wonder if I should write a ‘Bryant & May Guide to London’ at some point.
It would have to include lots of pointless, peculiar and abstruse information of course, and could well turn out to be more exhausting to write than the average B&M novel, but it could also be a lot of fun. I just discovered, for instance, that the Queen is theoretically not allowed to go east of the Temple Bar gryphon without being issued a formal invitation by the Lord Mayor, one of those pointless, useless facts Arthur Bryant would pick up on. There should be a pub tour, of course, and an art tour, and an eerie after dark tour.
One of the best London books in recent memory was ‘Curiocity’ by Henry Elliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose, who added to the accepted canon of London esoterica by including plenty of fresh, astute observations. They’ve turned the unearthing of London oddities into a mini-empire of related ephemera – their specialised maps are rather good and temptingly collectable. (I await a version of his book on mazes that comes without the tiresome typography.)
In the period between the wars there were a great many books observing London’s social life, often written from extreme viewpoints (ie rather fascistic). What we lack is a really opinionated viewpoint in a modern guide, and this I feel is where Arthur Bryant comes in. Despite my own suggestions to the contrary I am not Arthur and his views are more extreme than my own, but he’d make a fun, curmudgeonly, argumentative guide.