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This Is Jimmy’s London, 1944

September 30, 2016
by the gentle author

Excerpts from ‘This is London‘ produced as a guide for servicemen & women in 1944

In these war-time days, when official guide books are not obtainable, a quiet perusal of ‘This is London’ will be of inestimable service to visitors, making a ‘leave in London’ something memorable and, as Jimmy says, well worth keeping a diary of.

“ the Bank..”

I don’t know anything about London and the sooner I set out to learn the better and the quicker I’ll know it. There’s only one way to learn about any town and that is to walk as much as you can. It’ll knock some of the strangeness out of you. You won’t feel you’re a stranger in the place. You won’t feel as if everyone is looking at you and telling themselves that you are a stranger. Believe me, it’ll help you feel a lot better.

The Green Park

I wanted to walk along the pavements, to watch the people, to visit places whose names were so familiar to everyone in the world. Talk about walking the paths of history, I was tickled pink.

“…Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library…”

Whether you are a reader on no, it is well worth spending a few minutes, few hours for that matter, watching the various types of people who stand, hour after hour, at the bookshops, browsing. I’m firmly convinced that very many Londoners regard Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library, and I’m equally certain that booksellers look benignly on these non-profitable customers.

“…down Wapping Way..”

To find funny little pubs with funny little bars and mix with all kinds of people, I think it’s the wisest thing anyone could do and it’s what I’ve always longed to try. There are no tough spots. Go to the poorest quarter in the East End and you’ll meet with politeness. Go into a pub down by the docks. It may not be luxurious, but you’ll find that everyone is nice there. You’ll hear the occasional ‘damn’ and, if there’s no women in the place, you’ll hear much worse.

Dirty Dick’s I won’t forget in a hurry. A unique place if ever there was one. I think the story of the original landlord who allowed everything to get into such a disgusting state of dirt and cobwebs is more or less fictitious. It’s quite close to Liverpool St Station and, although it, like many other place, received some damage during the blitz, the landlord still carries on, just as do all other Londoners.

In Hyde Park, some of the orators take their job very seriously, others look upon it as a kind of rag, entering into cross-talk with their audiences with such obvious pleasure. I don’t think I would like to be an earnest speaker there for occasionally the heckling is terrific. How these speakers can possibly hope to make themselves heard, speaking as they do one against the other, is more than I can understand.

I went to Covent Garden Market and tried to understand what it was all about, tried to make sense of what the salesmen were saying. They have a jargon all their own while the porters astonished me by throwing enormous weights about with a nonchalance that is truly amazing.

In St James’ Park

Where else but in London could one see the unexpected glimpse of a State trumpeter, his tunic, the scarlet and gold of medieval pageantry, glinting in the sun – and the inscrutable eyes of an aged Chelsea Pensioner who watched him fixedly?

Of course, I’ve read my Pepys and that gives a very fair picture, but while I’m fond of seeing historical buildings, links with the past so to speak, I much prefer the present.

A fellow would have to be dead from the neck up if he couldn’t enjoy the London Zoo. The Zoo is obviously a Londoner’s playground, everyone is eager to see as much as possible and the groups around each cage or enclosure become, for the moment, a band of friends.

The Embankment where artists in chalk ply their trade and pray for fair weather …

… and schoolboys read ‘penny dreadfuls’ in the shadow of mysterious Egypt.

Thankyou London, for all those memories. Thankyou London!

12 Responses leave one →
  1. September 30, 2016

    It speaks of friendship and camaraderie! How lovely.
    The photo of the boys and the Sphinx is excellent, a worthy addition to the Spitalfields Life collection!

  2. September 30, 2016

    All the photos have lovely compositions actually.

  3. September 30, 2016

    And suprised to see sheep in Green Park in 1944 – there must have been rationing and hunger, ie Green Park probably wasn’t very safe for sheep?

  4. September 30, 2016

    I say, old boy, the Capital looks capital. Can’t wait till my next leave. Piccadilly and the East End here I come!

  5. Steph permalink
    September 30, 2016

    ‘To find funny little pubs with funny little bars and mix with all kinds of people, I think it’s the wisest thing anyone could do and it’s what I’ve always longed to try.’ My gran taught me this too with our daytrips together.

    I still stubbornly think you have to be dead up to your neck to not enjoy London, but be quick it is vanishing fast due to the political preference for overseas investors to be haunting the centre rather than ordinary 3D living of resident Londoners. Hope Labour can make a difference here.

  6. September 30, 2016

    Love the image of the pool of London and the light fittings on the bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Fascinating

  7. Nick permalink
    September 30, 2016

    How recently did they have polar bears in London zoo?

  8. September 30, 2016

    And ‘thank you’ Jimmy for those wonderful photos and comments of a vibrant city and it’s citizens. I really enjoyed this post. Although many were before my time, it brought back memories of my childhood when some of these images might have been taken.

  9. Francis Bright permalink
    September 30, 2016

    That well-dressed gent with glasses and a grey beard looking over the produce at the Covent Garden Market looks very much like Sigmund Freud, who lived in Hampstead in 1938-39. I’m almost certain it’s him.

  10. September 30, 2016

    Just wonderful!

  11. john campbell permalink
    September 30, 2016

    The chap in the speakers corner photo looks just like Freud
    Could it be him?

  12. October 2, 2016

    Wonderful look into a very special period. War ends next year!

    Love & Peace

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