Preparing for Mr Bradshaw is a serious matter. He gives a preamble to his guided tour – clearly I need to prepare thoughtfully before setting forth.
London has doubled in the past 50 years – fifty of the main cities and towns in England would not equal the population of London – and it continues to grow. My first impression will be the ‘illimitability’ of this ‘..modern Babylon’ which has 2,336,060 inhabitants, 126 breweries, and 66 distillers. (Is there a hint of disapproval?) The Port of London is busy and the revenue from shipping equals all the other custom houses in the UK and Ireland together. However, despite this wealth I can expect to see ‘..dingy warehouses [and] dark alleys..’ in the City, although in the West End I will find ‘..a splendour less real but more apparent..’.
The clerks start filling the City streets from 9.00am, followed by their employers from around 10.00am, and it will be noisy, ‘..an incessant din, [an] everlasting rumble..’and miles of narrow, dingy streets with their constant stream of wagons. In streets thronged with beggars I will need to be aware of pickpockets, and I will also have to watch my footing in the London mud, ‘..gluey, well-kneaded, and at once sloppy and slippy..’. There are still fires – five or six a night – but fortunately the Royal Society for the Preservation of Life now has over fifty fire stations, supported by voluntary contributions.
The London Fog and the smoke and haze will restrict my view and so I go to Waterloo Bridge, early on a clear, sunshiny morning and there I will be able to see ‘..thickly clustered houses..towers and steeples (more than fifty), and five bridges..’, all attesting to the wealth of the City.
And so-informed, in a frame of mind disposed to seek pleasure, I will set out with Mr Bradshaw’s guidance on Thursday 24 January 2013 to explore London and its environs!