A Message From Mr Bryant On Peculiar London
I put my glasses down a minute ago and now I can’t find them.
I’ve been asked by Transworld, who are publishing ‘Bryant & May’s Peculiar London’ in July, to say something about the capital’s places and its people that we can be proud of (not the lad above, thankfully).
What they mean is they’re trying to save a few bob by getting me to do their publicity on the cheap. They know this is a labour of love for me so they thought they’d get away with it, but I sent through a bill for my expenses, including a Greggs sausage roll, a bottle of milk stout and two ounces of Senior Service Old Sailors’ Below Decks Maritime Shag.
‘Can’t we appeal to your better nature?’ they asked.
‘I haven’t got a better nature,’ I replied. ‘See how long it takes for you to lose your boyish charm after being daily confronted by youths sticking fireworks up their bottoms.’ Unfortunately in this fair city it was ever thus.
So, what is ‘Peculiar London’?
It’s a look at the main character in my memoirs, the city itself. It’s not one of those hectoring tomes about where Oliver Cromwell’s teeth ended up and how many steps you’re likely to fall down into the crypt of St Cuthbert. I can’t compete with the kind of passionate historians who claim to know how many double-decker buses you can fit inside the Albert Hall, but I’ll be making some connections that may take you by surprise. They certainly took me by surprise, not always in a good way.
John May and I have spent decades clambering in and out of London buildings and interviewing low-lifes, and this book contains what we’ve learned. So there’s nothing about the Little Venice Dragon Boat Pageant, the Bethnal Green Morris Dancers, the Bastille Day Waiters’ Race or the Dagenham Girl Pipers, who for some unearthly reason became the punchline to a great many London jokes. And I’m not sticking in loads of addresses for you, either. If you want those you can use the Googly-thing on your phone. ‘Peculiar London’ is more like one of our usual cases, only with several murderers instead of one.
For me there’s always a gap between what you read about a city and what you feel when you walk around it. I attempt to bridge that gap. I’ve assembled an entire bookful of observations with the help of my partner, who took out some of the stuff that didn’t exist and removed the more libellous remarks so that I wouldn’t get attacked in public again.
I can’t guarantee that it’s all true, obviously. I’m interested in the connections that reveal London’s personality. Imagine you’re on one of my walking tours. I had to give them up after an unfortunate incident. All I can say is, if you suddenly need to break wind don’t slip into the royal box of the Drury Lane Theatre without first checking there’s no one else in it.
‘Bryant & May’s Peculiar London’ features a host of beloved characters, it says here, and me, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never read any of the books, you’ll love it. Don’t buy it for the publishers, buy it for a poor old man living on his wits and a pathetic pension that will kick in if I ever manage to leave this sodding job.